Uterine Gland

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Uterine gland secretory phase

The uterine gland or endometrial gland is a simple tubular gland formed by invagination of the uterine endometrium. The uterine epithelium is described as a columnar epithelium of ciliated cells and secretory cells.

The glands extend into the underlying thick vascular stromal layer. The glands line the uterus body and change in appearance and secretion during the menstrual cycle. The glands secretions function to provide the initial nutritional support of the conceptus and may have a role in maintaining adhesion.

Menstrual Cycle Links: Introduction | menstrual histology | ovary | corpus luteum | oocyte | uterus | Uterine Gland | estrous cycle | pregnancy test
Historic Embryology - Menstrual 
1839 Corpus Luteum Structure | 1851 Corpus Luteum | 1933 Pap Smear | 1937 Corpus Luteum Hormone | 1942 Human Reproduction Hormones | 1951 Corpus Luteum | 1969 Ultrastructure of Development and Regression | 1969 Ultrastructure during Pregnancy

Some Recent Findings

  • Review - Uterine Glands: Developmental Biology and Functional Roles in Pregnancy[1] "All mammalian uteri contain glands in the endometrium that develop only or primarily after birth. Gland development or adenogenesis in the postnatal uterus is intrinsically regulated by proliferation, cell-cell interactions, growth factors and their inhibitors, as well as transcription factors, including forkhead box A2 (FOXA2) and estrogen receptor α (ESR1). Extrinsic factors regulating adenogenesis originate from other organs, including the ovary, pituitary, and mammary gland. The infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss observed in uterine gland knockout sheep and mouse models support a primary role for secretions and products of the glands in pregnancy success. Recent studies in mice revealed that uterine glandular epithelia govern postimplantation pregnancy establishment through effects on stromal cell decidualization and placental development. In humans, uterine glands and, by inference, their secretions and products are hypothesized to be critical for blastocyst survival and implantation as well as embryo and placental development during the first trimester before the onset of fetal-maternal circulation. A variety of hormones and other factors from the ovary, placenta, and stromal cells impact secretory function of the uterine glands during pregnancy. This review summarizes new information related to the developmental biology of uterine glands and discusses novel perspectives on their functional roles in pregnancy establishment and success.
  • Uterine glands coordinate on-time embryo implantation and impact endometrial decidualization for pregnancy success[2] "Uterine glands are essential for pregnancy establishment. By employing forkhead box A2 (FOXA2)-deficient mouse models coupled with leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) repletion, we reveal definitive roles of uterine glands in embryo implantation and stromal cell decidualization. Here we report that LIF from the uterine glands initiates embryo-uterine communication, leading to embryo attachment and stromal cell decidualization. Detailed histological and molecular analyses discovered that implantation crypt formation does not involve uterine glands, but removal of the luminal epithelium is delayed and subsequent decidualization fails in LIF-replaced glandless but not gland-containing FOXA2-deficient mice. Adverse ripple effects of those dysregulated events in the glandless uterus result in embryo resorption and pregnancy failure. These studies provide evidence that uterine glands synchronize embryo-endometrial interactions, coordinate on-time embryo implantation, and impact stromal cell decidualization, thereby ensuring embryo viability, placental growth, and pregnancy success."
  • WNTs in the neonatal mouse uterus: potential regulation of endometrial gland development.[3] "The WNTs are secreted proteins that control essential developmental processes, such as embryonic patterning, cell growth, migration, and differentiation. In mice, three members of the Wnt gene family (Wnt4, Wnt5a, and Wnt7a) have been studied extensively in the female reproductive tract. The present study determined effects of postnatal day and exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) on Wnt and Fzd gene expression in the mouse uterus as well as the biological role of Wnt11 in postnatal mouse uterine development and function." Developmental Signals - Wnt
More recent papers  
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Search term: Uterine Gland Development | Uterine Gland

Uterine Gland Histology During the Menstrual Cycle

Uterine gland proliferative phase.jpg Uterine gland secretory phase.jpg
Uterine gland proliferative phase Uterine gland secretory phase

Uterine changes cartoon 1.jpg

Menstrual Cycle Histology

The different stages of the menstrual cycle can be monitored by the cellular appearance of vaginal smears Menstrual Cycle - Histology.

A more invasive technique is dilate and curettage (DnC), which allows sampling of the functional layer of the uterine endometrium Menstrual Cycle - Histology.


Decidualization is the process of converting endometrial stromal cells into decimal cells and requires at least 8–10 days of hormone stimulation.

  • initiated during the mid-secretory phase of the menstrual cycle
  • in response to elevated progesterone levels
  • acts mainly through progesterone receptor (PR) PR-A (other isoform is PR-B)


PMID: 21546446 Prokineticin 1 (PROK1) signalling via prokineticin receptor 1 (PROKR1) regulates Dickkopf 1 (DKK1) expression, a negative regulator of canonical Wnt signaling.

Links: Placenta - Maternal Decidua

Histiotrophic Nutrition

Term used to describe in early placenta development the intital transfer of nutrition from maternal to embryo (histiotrophic nutrition) compared to later blood-borne nutrition (hemotrophic nutrition). Histotroph is the nutritional material accumulated in spaces between the maternal and fetal tissues, derived from the maternal endometrium and the uterine glands. This nutritional material is absorbed by phagocytosis initially by blastocyst trophectoderm and then by trophoblast of the placenta.[4] in later placental development nutrition is by the exchange of blood-borne materials between the maternal and fetal circulations, hemotrophic nutrition.


  1. Kelleher AM, DeMayo FJ & Spencer TE. (2019). Uterine Glands: Developmental Biology and Functional Roles in Pregnancy. Endocr. Rev. , 40, 1424-1445. PMID: 31074826 DOI.
  2. Kelleher AM, Milano-Foster J, Behura SK & Spencer TE. (2018). Uterine glands coordinate on-time embryo implantation and impact endometrial decidualization for pregnancy success. Nat Commun , 9, 2435. PMID: 29934619 DOI.
  3. Hayashi K, Yoshioka S, Reardon SN, Rucker EB, Spencer TE, DeMayo FJ, Lydon JP & MacLean JA. (2011). WNTs in the neonatal mouse uterus: potential regulation of endometrial gland development. Biol. Reprod. , 84, 308-19. PMID: 20962251 DOI.
  4. Burton GJ, Watson AL, Hempstock J, Skepper JN & Jauniaux E. (2002). Uterine glands provide histiotrophic nutrition for the human fetus during the first trimester of pregnancy. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. , 87, 2954-9. PMID: 12050279 DOI.



Gray CA, Bartol FF, Tarleton BJ, Wiley AA, Johnson GA, Bazer FW & Spencer TE. (2001). Developmental biology of uterine glands. Biol. Reprod. , 65, 1311-23. PMID: 11673245


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Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2024, April 13) Embryology Uterine Gland. Retrieved from https://embryology.med.unsw.edu.au/embryology/index.php/Uterine_Gland

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© Dr Mark Hill 2024, UNSW Embryology ISBN: 978 0 7334 2609 4 - UNSW CRICOS Provider Code No. 00098G