Runx3 expression and its roles in mouse endometrial cells.
There is indirect evidence that the in vivo proliferative response of rodent uterine epithelium to estrogen requires interaction with the underlying stroma in pre- and post-pubescent animals. To examine this potential requirement directly, the proliferative response of epithelium to 17β-estradiol in the presence or absence of stroma was measured in vitro. Uterine epithelial and stromal cells were isolated separately from immature or adult mice, and were maintained as monocultures or cocultures in defined, serum-free medium with or without 8 × 10−9 M 17β-estradiol. Incorporation of bromodeoxyuridine into the DNA was determined by immunolabeling to assay proliferation in individual cells. Cell morphology and immunolabeling of cytokeratin were used to distinguish epithelial from stromal cells. Treatment of cocultures with 17β-estradiol for 24 h increased the proliferation of epithelial cells relative to controls approximately threefold, whereas, in monocultures of epithelial or stromal cells 17β-estradiol decreased the number of bromodeoxyuridine-incorporating cells by approximately half. Furthermore, cell contact between epithelial and stromal cells was important for the effects of 17β-estradiol on cells in cocultures. Approximately three quarters of the 17β-estradiol-induced proliferation of epithelial cells in cocultures was produced by epithelial cells within colonies that were also contacting stromal cells. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that stromal cells mediate the estrogenic proliferative response, and provide evidence that this mediation involves cell contact or stroma-mediated changes in the microenvironment immediately around the epithelial cell.