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Scripps research scientists identify infertility molecule

an embryo, it must descend to the womb and implant there, where it will grow into a fetus. But the factors that control whether an embryo is able to implant successfully inside a womb have not been known.

Now Chun and his colleagues have discovered a new molecular pathway that influences fertility, at least in mice -- and one that directly affects the ability of mouse embryos to implant in their mother's womb.

LPA Receptors and Implantation

The pathway that affects implantation involves a particular type of receptor molecule -- a protein called a lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) receptor that can be found on the surfaces of cells in the brains and in the uteruses of mammals, where it binds to LPA, one type of phospholipid.

Phospholipids, molecules of fat with a charged head on one end, are commonly found in biological organisms and are generally regarded as essential structural components of cells. For instance, bilayers of phospholipids are the primary component of cellular membranes, those essential barriers that define the boundaries of cells and keep the molecules inside a cell separated from those outside a cell.

But many phospholipids are more than just simple structural elements. Some play significant signaling roles in the cell. LPA belongs to a family of phospholipids known as "lysophospholipids." These molecules play a more active role in the mammalian body, acting as signals for many different developmental events and adult physiology.

Chun and his colleagues identified the first lysophospholipid receptor about ten years ago, when he was at the University of California, San Diego, and since then eight more of these receptors have been identified. The LPA receptors are all proteins of the type known as a G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR). This is a common type of receptor molecule in the body, and an important class of targets for the design of drugs. Indeed, about half of the medicines on the market target such
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Source:Scripps Research Institute


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