Podocalyxin promotes an impermeable epithelium and inhibits pro-implantation factors to negatively regulate endometrial receptivity
AbstractEmbryo implantation is a key step in establishing pregnancy and a major limiting factor in IVF. Implantation requires a receptive endometrium but the mechanisms governing receptivity are not well understood. We have recently discovered that podocalyxin (PCX or PODXL) is a key negative regulator of human endometrial receptivity. PCX is expressed in all endometrial epithelial cells in the non-receptive endometrium but selectively down-regulated in the luminal epithelium at receptivity. We have further demonstrated that this down-regulation is essential for implantation because PCX inhibits embryo attachment and penetration. However, how PCX confers this role is unknown. In this study, through RNAseq analysis of Ishikawa cell line stably overexpressing PCX, we discovered that PCX suppresses expression of genes controlling cell adhesion and communication, but increases those governing epithelial barrier functions, especially the adherens and tight junctions. Moreover, PCX suppresses multiple factors such as LIF and signaling pathways including Wnt and calcium signaling that support receptivity but stimulates anti-implantation genes such as LEFTY2. Functional studies confirmed that PCX promotes epithelial barrier functions by increasing key epithelial junction proteins such as E-cadherin and claudin 4. PCX thus promotes an anti-adhesive and impermeable epithelium while impedes pro-implantation factors to negatively control endometrial receptivity for implantation.