Cyclooxygenase (COX) is the rate-limiting enzyme in the biosynthesis of PGs. PGs together with ovarian steroids play important regulatory roles in the establishment and maintenance of pregnancy in a number of different species. In the primate, little is known about the role of PGs in these processes. In this study, the uterine expression of COX-1 and COX-2 throughout the menstrual cycle [late follicular, day 5 postovulation (PO), day 10 PO, and day 14 PO] and pregnancy (days 12-18, day 39, day 51, and near term) was analyzed using semiquantitative RT-PCR, in situ hybridization, and immunocytochemistry. During the menstrual cycle, the highest expression of COX-1 occurred in luteal phase endometrium and was localized to the surface and glandular epithelium. The stromal cells did not express detectable levels of COX-1 at any time. COX-2 messenger RNA (mRNA) expression, as measured by RT-PCR, was evident at all stages of the menstrual cycle, and in situ hybridization showed specific localization for this mRNA in the epithelial cells during the cycle. Treatment of animals with the antiprogestin (ZK 137.316) for 9 days (beginning on the day of the LH surge) inhibited COX-1 expression in the epithelium when the tissue was analyzed on day 10 PO, whereas COX-2 expression disappeared in the epithelium and increased in the stroma. With the onset of pregnancy, COX-1 expression in epithelial cells decreased dramatically. In contrast, COX-2 continued to be detected on the surface epithelium and was also strongly expressed specifically in the stromal cells at the site of implantation. Immunocytochemical staining for COX-2 showed the same pattern of expression for the protein as the message. Finally, near-term decidua expressed very little COX-1 or COX-2 mRNA. These studies suggest that in the baboon endometrium, COX-1 expression is regulated primarily by progesterone, whereas regulation of COX-2 expression may involve additional mediators of embryonic origin at the site of implantation.
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