As it approaches the maternal surface, the attaching embryo encounters the epithelial glycocalyx, which contains the mucin, MUC1. A high density of MUC1 at the cell surface can inhibit cell adhesion. This raises the possibility of the existence of a uterine barrier to implantation that might allow maternal rejection of poorer quality embryos. To investigate the mechanism of implantation, human embryos were incubated with endometrial epithelial monolayers. Hatched blastocysts were found to attach readily to the epithelial surface. MUC1 was lost from epithelial cells beneath and near to the attached embryo, while normal expression persisted in neighbouring cells.
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