Endometrial extracellular vesicles (EVs) are emerging as important players in reproductive biology. However, how their proteome is regulated throughout the menstrual cycle is not known. Such information can provide novel insights into biological processes critical for embryo development, implantation, and successful pregnancy. Using mass spectrometry-based quantitative proteomics, we show that small EVs (sEVs) isolated from uterine lavage of fertile women (UL-sEV), compared to infertile women, are laden with proteins implicated in antioxidant activity (SOD1, GSTO1, MPO, CAT). Functionally, sEVs derived from endometrial cells enhance antioxidant function in trophectoderm cells. Moreover, there was striking enrichment of invasion-related proteins (LGALS1/3, S100A4/11) in fertile UL-sEVs in the secretory (estrogen plus progesterone-driven, EP) versus proliferative (estrogen-driven, E) phase, with several players downregulated in infertile UL-sEVs. Consistent with this, sEVs from EP- versus E-primed endometrial epithelial cells promote invasion of trophectoderm cells. Interestingly, UL-sEVs from fertile versus infertile women carry known players/predictors of embryo implantation (PRDX2, IDHC), endometrial receptivity (S100A4, FGB, SERPING1, CLU, ANXA2), and implantation success (CAT, YWHAE, PPIA), highlighting their potential to inform regarding endometrial status/pregnancy outcomes. Thus, this study provides novel insights into proteome reprograming of sEVs and soluble secretome in uterine fluid, with potential to enhance embryo implantation and hence fertility.
Keywords: embryo implantation; extracellular vesicles; fertility; proteomics; uterine fluid.
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