Sex steroids influence the plasma membrane transformation in the uterus of the fat-tailed dunnart (Sminthopsis crassicaudata, Marsupialia)

Jessica S. Dudley*, Christopher R. Murphy, Michael B. Thompson, Laura A. Lindsay, Bronwyn M. McAllan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


The uterine epithelium undergoes remodelling to become receptive to blastocyst implantation during pregnancy in a process known as the plasma membrane transformation. There are commonalities in ultrastructural changes to the epithelium, which, in eutherian, pregnancies are controlled by maternal hormones, progesterone and oestrogens. The aim of this study was to determine the effects that sex steroids have on the uterine epithelium in the fat-tailed dunnart Sminthopsis crassicaudata, the first such study in a marsupial. Females were exposed to exogenous hormones while they were reproductively quiescent, thus not producing physiological concentrations of ovarian hormones. We found that changes to the protein E-cadherin, which forms part of the adherens junction, are controlled by progesterone and that changes to the desmoglein-2 protein, which forms part of desmosomes, are controlled by 17β-oestradiol. Exposure to a combination of progesterone and 17β-oestradiol causes changes to the microvilli on the apical surface and to the ultrastructure of the uterine epithelium. There is a decrease in lateral adhesion when the uterus is exposed to progesterone and 17β-oestradiol that mimics the hormone environment of uterine receptivity. We conclude that uterine receptivity and the plasma membrane transformation in marsupial and eutherian pregnancies are under the same endocrine control and may be an ancestral feature of therian mammals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)633-644
Number of pages12
JournalReproduction, Fertility and Development
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • 17β-oestradiol
  • adherens junction
  • desmosomes
  • marsupial
  • progesterone
  • uterine receptivity


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