Cyclooxygenase (COX) is an enzyme involved in the conversion of arachidonic acid to prostaglandins (PGs), and exists in two forms, COX-1 and COX-2. COX has been reported to be involved in early implantation by secretion of PGs which causes permeability of vessels and reaction of decidual cells around the implantation site. Recently, in mice and sheep studies, COX-1 and COX-2 expression in the endometrium has been reported to be different according to implantation and stages of the estrous cycle, but expression of COX-1 and COX-1 in human endometrium during the menstrual cycle has not yet been established. The purpose of this study was to observe the variances of COX-1 and COX-2 expression by immunohistochemical staining in endometrial samples obtained from human hysterectomy specimens and biopsies of women of reproductive age according to different stages of the menstrual cycle. Also, we attempted to observe COX-1 and COX-2 expression in the epithelial and stromal cells of the endometrium obtained during the mid-secretory phase, which were cultured separately. COX-2 showed a cyclic pattern of expression according to the different stages of the menstrual cycle and was strongly expressed particularly at the mid-secretory phase which corresponds to the time of implantation. However, COX-1 tended to be increased in the early proliferative, and mid- and late secretory phases, but was also expressed in the whole menstrual cycle showing no particular pattern. In the separately cultured cells COX-1 was expressed in epithilial cells and COX-2 in the stromal cells. The above results suggest that since COX-2 is expressed at the same time as implantation and cultured cells display a specific secretory pattern, COX-2 has inductive endocrine enzyme properties and has an important effect on endometrial cells during implantation. Also, and COX-2 expression in endometrial cells may be utilized as a useful marker of endometrial maturation.
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