Single-cell transcriptomic atlas of the human endometrium during the menstrual cycle

Nat Med. 2020 Oct;26(10):1644-1653. doi: 10.1038/s41591-020-1040-z. Epub 2020 Sep 14.

Abstract

In a human menstrual cycle the endometrium undergoes remodeling, shedding and regeneration, all of which are driven by substantial gene expression changes in the underlying cellular hierarchy. Despite its importance in human fertility and regenerative biology, our understanding of this unique type of tissue homeostasis remains rudimentary. We characterized the transcriptomic transformation of human endometrium at single-cell resolution across the menstrual cycle, resolving cellular heterogeneity in multiple dimensions. We profiled the behavior of seven endometrial cell types, including a previously uncharacterized ciliated cell type, during four major phases of endometrial transformation, and found characteristic signatures for each cell type and phase. We discovered that the human window of implantation opens with an abrupt and discontinuous transcriptomic activation in the epithelia, accompanied with a widespread decidualization feature in the stromal fibroblasts. Our study provides a high-resolution molecular and cellular characterization of human endometrial transformation across the menstrual cycle, providing insights into this essential physiological process.