During the preimplantation phase of pregnancy the endometrial stroma differentiates into decidua, a process that implies numerous morphological changes and is an example of physiological transdifferentiation. Here we show that UIII rat endometrial stromal cells cultured in the presence of calf serum acquired morphological features of decidual cells and expressed decidual markers. To identify genes involved in decidualization we compared gene expression patterns of control and decidualized UIII cells using cDNA microarray. We found 322 annotated genes exhibiting significant differences in expression (>3-fold, fold discovery rate (FDR) >0.005), of which 312 have not been previously related to decidualization. Analysis of overrepresented functions revealed that protein synthesis, gene expression, and chromatin architecture and remodeling are the most relevant modified functions during decidualization. Relevant genes are also found in the functional terms differentiation, cell proliferation, signal transduction, and matrix/structural proteins. Several of these new genes involved in decidualization (Csdc2, Trim27, Eef1a1, Bmp1, Wt1, Aes, Gna12, and Men1) are shown to be also regulated in uterine decidua during normal pregnancy. Thus, the UIII cell culture model will allow future mechanistic studies to define the transcriptional network regulating reprogramming of stromal cells into decidual cells.
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