Identification of biomarkers of optimal uterine receptivity to the implanting embryo as well as biomarkers of oocyte competence would undoubtedly improve the efficiency of assisted reproductive technology (ART). Expression of IL-15 and IL-18 has been shown to be different in patients with failed implantation after IVF/ICSI compared with fertile controls and both correlate with local uNK (CD56+) recruitment and angiogenesis. Tumor necrosis factor weak inducer of apoptosis (TWEAK) has been described in mice as a potent early immune regulator able to protect the conceptus. The results of our studies in human suggest that TWEAK modulates the IL-18 related cytotoxicity of uNK cells. Quantification of IL-18, TWEAK and IL-15 mRNA expression by real-time PCR in endometrial tissue collected in mid-luteal phase of non-conception cycles allowed documentation of physiological events that occur at the time of uterine receptivity. Such information may be useful for the physician especially in patients where embryos fail to implant. Cytokine quantification may assist in understanding the mechanisms leading to repeated IVF/ICSI failure: either depletion of cytokines necessary for the apposition-adhesion, or an excess of cytokines leading to local cytotoxicity, may impair the implantation of the embryo. Other new data suggest that a pre-conception dialogue mediated by the oocyte and the follicular fluid and the oocyte may contribute to later implantation success. Follicular concentration of G-CSF appears as a useful biomarker of oocyte competence before fertilization. Moreover both in human and animal models, evidence of a role of the endometrium as a biosensor of the embryo is emerging.
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