During early gestation in invasively implanting species, the uterine stromal compartment undergoes dramatic remodeling, defined by the differentiation of stromal fibroblast cells into decidual cells. Lipid signaling molecules from a number of pathways are well-established functional components of this decidualization reaction. Because of a correlation in the events that transpire in the uterus during early implantation with known functions of bioactive sphingolipid metabolites established from studies in other organ systems, we hypothesized that uterine sphingolipid metabolism would change during implantation. By a combination of Northern blot, Western blot, and immunohistochemical analyses, we establish that enzymes at each of the major catalytic steps in the sphingolipid cascade become transcriptionally up-regulated in the uterus during decidualization. Each of the enzymes analyzed was up-regulated from Days of Pregnancy (DOP) 4.5–7.5. When comparing embryo-induced decidualization (decidual) with mechanically induced decidualization (deciduomal), sphingomyelin phosphodiesterase 1 (Smpd1) mRNA and sphingosine kinase 1 (SPHK1) protein were shown to be dually regulated in the endometrium by both maternal and embryonic factors. As measured by the diacyl glycerol kinase assay, ceramide levels rose in parallel with Smpd1 gene expression, suggesting that elevated transcription of sphingolipid enzymes results in heightened catalytic activity of the pathway. Altogether, these findings place sphingolipids on a growing list of lipid signaling molecules that become increasingly present at the maternal-embryonic interface.
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Vol. 77 • No. 4