Interferons and uterine receptivity. Academic Article uri icon


  • This article focuses on the potential roles of interferons (IFNs) in establishing uterine receptivity to implantation. A common feature of the peri-implantation period of pregnancy in most mammals is production of type I and/or type II IFNs by trophoblasts that induce and/or stimulate expression of an array of IFN-stimulate genes (ISGs). These effects range from pregnancy recognition signaling in ruminants through IFN tau to effects on cellular functions of the uterus and uterine vasculature. For actions of IFNs, progesterone (P4) is permissive to the expression of many effects and to the expression of ISGs that are induced directly by an IFN or induced by P4 and stimulated by an IFN in a temporal and/or cell-specific manner. Uterine receptivity to implantation is P4 dependent; however, implantation events are preceded by loss of expression of progesterone (PGR) and estrogen (ESR1) receptors by uterine epithelia. Therefore, P4 likely acts via PGR-positive stromal cells to induce expression of fibroblast growth factors-7 and -10 and/or hepatocyte growth factor (progestamedins) that then act via their respective receptors on uterine epithelia and trophectoderm to affect expression of ISGs. The permissive effects of P4 on the expression of ISGs and the effects of P4 to induce and IFNs to stimulate gene expression raise the question of whether uterine receptivity to implantation requires P4 and IFN to activate unique, but complementary, cell signaling pathways. Uterine receptivity to implantation, depending on species, involves changes in the expression of genes for the attachment of trophectoderm to the uterine lumenal epithelium (LE) and superficial glandular epithelium (sGE), modification of the phenotype of uterine stromal cells, the silencing of PGR and ESR1 genes, the suppression of genes for immune recognition, alterations in membrane permeability to enhance conceptus-maternal exchange of factors, increased vascularity of the endometrium, activation of genes for transport of nutrients into the uterine lumen, and enhanced signaling for pregnancy recognition. Differential expression of genes by uterine LE/sGE, mid- to deep-glandular epithelia (GE), and stromal cells in response to P4 and IFNs is likely to influence uterine receptivity to implantation in most mammals. Understanding the roles of IFNs in uterine receptivity for implantation is necessary to develop approaches to enhance reproductive health and fertility in humans and domestic animals.

published proceedings

  • Semin Reprod Med

author list (cited authors)

  • Bazer, F. W., Spencer, T. E., & Johnson, G. A.

citation count

  • 113

complete list of authors

  • Bazer, Fuller W||Spencer, Thomas E||Johnson, Gregory A

publication date

  • January 2009