In the present study, we examined the embryonic regulation of beta 3 integrin in human endometrial epithelial cells (EEC) at the protein level and analyzed putative embryonic factors responsible for this regulation. The model employed is based on a clinical in vitro fertilization program in which single human embryos were cocultured with EEC until blastocyst stage and then transferred back to the uterus. After embryo transfer, EEC wells were divided according to the embryonic status reached: EEC with embryos that achieved the blastocyst stage, EEC with arrested embryos, and EEC without embryos. Immunostaining for beta 3 was positive in plasma membrane of EEC. Flow cytometry showed a mean percentage of beta 3-stained cells of 24.1 +/- 5.7 in EEC cocultured with embryos that achieved the blastocyst stage (n = 13) vs. 9.5 +/- 1.6 (P < 0.05) in those EEC cultured with arrested embryos (n = 12). Immunostaining for alpha 1 and alpha 4 integrins was negative in EEC monolayers studied, regardless of the presence or absence of embryos, and these findings were confirmed by flow cytometry. The possibility that the embryonic IL-1 system and leukemia inhibitory factor were involved in the endometrial beta 3 up-regulation was investigated by neutralizing experiments demonstrating a significant inhibition of beta 3-stained cells when EEC monolayers were cultured in the presence of EEC/blastocyst-conditioned media with (n = 4) vs. without (n = 8) antihuman interleukin (IL)-1 alpha + IL-1 beta (1.65% vs. 14.6%; P < 0.05). Dose-response experiments further demonstrated an up-regulation of beta 3 positive cells when IL-1 alpha + IL-1 beta were added to the medium at a concentration of 10 pg/mL compared with control medium without added cytokines (40% vs. 20%, n = 4). The functional relevance of the EEC beta 3 up-regulation was tested using a mouse blastocyst adhesion assay. More mouse blastocysts attached to EEC previously in contact with human blastocyst (72.7%) compared with those EEC previously in contact with arrested embryos (40%). Our results demonstrate the selective effect of a developing human embryo on EEC expression of beta 3, which is maximal when a human blastocyst instead of an arrested embryo is considered. Furthermore, the embryonic IL-1 system seems to be involved in the EEC beta 3 up-regulation, reinforcing the concept of precise paracrine cross-talk between blastocyst and endometrial epithelium during embryonic implantation.