Postnatal deletion of Wnt7a inhibits uterine gland morphogenesis and compromises adult fertility in mice.
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The success of postnatal uterine morphogenesis dictates, in part, the embryotrophic potential and functional capacity of the adult uterus. The definitive role of Wnt7a in postnatal uterine development and adult function requires a conditional knockout, because global deletion disrupts mllerian duct patterning, specification, and cell fate in the fetus. The Wnt7a-null uterus appears to be posteriorized because of developmental defects in the embryo, as evidenced by the stratified luminal epithelium that is normally found in the vagina and the presence of short and uncoiled oviducts. To understand the biological role of WNT7A after birth and allow tissue-selective deletion of Wnt7a, we generated loxP-flanked exon 2 mice and conditionally deleted Wnt7a after birth in the uterus by crossing them with Pgr(Cre) mice. Morphological examination revealed no obvious differences in the vagina, cervix, oviduct, or ovary. The uteri of Wnt7a mutant mice contained no endometrial glands, whereas all other uterine cell types appeared to be normal. Postnatal differentiation of endometrial glands was observed in control mice, but not in mutant mice, between Postnatal Days 3 and 12. Expression of morphoregulatory genes, particularly Foxa2, Hoxa10, Hoxa11, Msx1, and Wnt16, was disrupted in the Wnt7a mutant uteri. Conditional Wnt7a mutant mice were not fertile. Although embryos were present in uteri of mutant mice on Day 3.5 of pregnancy, blastocyst implantation was not observed on Day 5.5. Furthermore, expression of several genes (Foxa2, Lif, Msx1, and Wnt16) was reduced or absent in adult Wnt7a-deleted uteri on Day 3.5 postmating. These results indicate that WNT7A plays a critical role in postnatal uterine gland morphogenesis and function, which are important for blastocyst implantation and fertility in the adult uterus.