Molecular phylogenetic studies suggest that the hemochorial placentation and decidualization are ancestral traits of eutherian mammals. While the origin of the placental tissue is well understood, the origin of the decidual cells is unclear. Here we address the origin of decidual cells by examining the expression patterns of six transcription factors (TFs) as well as four structural proteins in the endometrium of a marsupial, Monodelphis domestica, and compared them with the patterns known from eutherian species. We found a mesenchymal cell population in the subepithelial compartment of the opossum endometrium. These cells express a set of TFs, such as homeobox A11 (HOXA11), CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein beta (CEBPB), and progesterone receptor (PGR), that are important for eutherian endometrial stromal cells. On the other hand, we did not find the expression of a decidual cell marker desmin (DES) or of TFs that are important for decidual cell differentiation, such as forkhead box O1 (FOXO1), in those cells. Based on these results, we propose that opossum has cells homologous to eutherian endometrial fibroblasts but no decidual cells. In addition, we describe cellular changes associated with the progression of pregnancy: nuclear localization of CEBPB in luminal epithelial cells as early as 8 days postcoitum, expansion of endometrial glands, nuclear localization of FOXO1 in glandular epithelial cells, and expression of smooth muscle actin in luminal epithelial cells. These data show that the luminal and glandular epithelium react to the presence of the preplacentation conceptus and suggest a limited form of pregnancy recognition.
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Vol. 90 • No. 5