Tenascin is a large extracellular matrix (ECM) protein generally restricted to developing embryonic tissues and tissues undergoing remodelling in the adult, but it has been suggested that tenascin is immunomodulatory. In this study we have used indirect immunofluorescence to investigate the distribution of tenascin within the uteri of pregnant and non-pregnant rats. The non-pregnant uterus expressed tenascin in the stroma around the glands, but only the subluminal stroma showed cyclical variations. Dependence of the latter on progesterone was verified in ovariectomized animals supplemented with steroid hormones. During early pregnancy, the uterine circular smooth muscle maintained an intense expression of tenascin. In the decidualizing endometrium, tenascin expression showed dramatic changes that reflected the regionalization of the decidualization process. On Day 6 (blastocyst attachment), tenascin immunoreactivity was prominent in the primary decidualization zone immediately surrounding the conceptus. On Day 7, expression had increased within the secondary decidua that had developed throughout the anti-mesometrial endometrium. By Day 8, the antimesometrial decidua showed diminished tenascin immunoreactivity; expression became largely confined to the ECM of the developing decidua in the mesometrial region, where levels were high. On Day 10, the well-developed mesometrial decidua was negative. Interestingly, tenascin expression was up-regulated in the walls of the vessels in the metrial gland within the mesometrial triangle beginning on Day 10 of pregnancy. From these studies we conclude that tenascin expression may be an important reflection of the dynamics involved with tissue restructuring during early pregnancy and may play a role in immunomodulation, since expression of this protein in the mesometrial decidua coincides with the presence of differentiating natural killer cell lineage lymphocytes in the same region.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology