Altered retinoid signaling compromises decidualization in human endometriotic stromal cells

Mary Ellen Pavone*, Saurabh Malpani, Matthew Dyson, Serdar E. Bulun

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Decidualization alters multiple molecular pathways in endometrium to permit successful embryo implantation. We have reported that paracrine factors, including retinoids, secreted from progesterone-treated endometrial stromal cells, act on nearby epithelial cells to induce the estradiol metabolizing enzyme HSD17B2. This same induction is not seen in endometriotic stromal cells. We have also shown significant differences in retinoid uptake, metabolism and action in endometriotic tissue and stromal cells compared to normal endometrium. Here, we characterize retinoid signaling during decidualization in these cells. Endometrial and endometriotic cells were isolated, cultured and incubated and decidualized. Genes involved in retinoid metabolism and trafficking were examined using RT-PCR and Western blotting. Prolactin, a decidualization marker, was also examined. We found that both endometrial and endometriotic stromal cells express all intracellular proteins involved in retinoid uptake and metabolism. Decidualization significantly reduced the expression of the genes responsible for retinoid uptake and shuttling to the nucleus. However, expression of CRBP1, an intracellular carrier protein for retinol, increased, as did RBP4, a carrier protein for retinol in the blood, which can function in a paracrine manner. Secreted RBP4 was detected in the media from decidualized endometrial cells but not from endometriotic cells. We believe that retinoid trafficking in endometrial stromal cells during decidualization may shift to favor paracrine rather than intracrine signaling, which may enhance signaling to the adjacent epithelium. There is blunting of this signaling in endometriotic cells. These alterations in retinoid signaling may help explain the decidualization defects and deficient estradiol inactivation (via HSD17B2) seen in endometriosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207-216
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Embryology
  • Endocrinology
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Cell Biology


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