Uterine receptivity and cytokines: new concepts and new applications

Gynecol Obstet Invest. 2007;64(3):138-43. doi: 10.1159/000101737.


The implantation process, currently thought to be the most critical step in achieving a successful early pregnancy, remains one of the most important unsolved processes in reproductive medicine. It depends on uterine-dependent and embryo-specific events, which need to be critically coordinated. Early embryo signaling following a maternal hormonal or cytokine-mediated preparation phase seems to be involved in stages immediately before, during and just after the apposition step to permit adequate proliferation of the stroma. Our objective is to develop guidelines and diagnostic tools pertinent to appreciate uterine receptivity. We will focus our attention on the uterine luminal environment at the time of oocyte retrieval and on the monitoring of the endometrium using three-dimensional ultrasound associated with digital technology and cytokine quantification by real-time PCR during the implantation window in an IVF/ICSI population. There is an accumulating body of data which strongly suggests that both implantation and uterine receptivity are controlled, primarily, though not exclusively, by locally acting growth factors and cytokines, some under steroid control. Some specific cytokines (IL-12, IL-15 and IL-18) in the luminal environment and in the endometrium allow a distinct pattern of abnormal uterine receptivity. The identification of these distinct patterns of abnormal uterine receptivity and of the mechanisms leading to the abnormal angiogenesis before implantation strongly suggest that no single therapeutic scheme can correct all cases of implantation failure and should be adapted for each patient especially in the case of unexplained infertility.

MeSH terms

  • Cytokines / immunology*
  • Embryo Implantation / immunology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-15 / biosynthesis
  • Interleukin-18 / biosynthesis
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic / immunology
  • Pregnancy
  • Reproductive Techniques, Assisted*
  • Uterus / immunology*


  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-15
  • Interleukin-18