Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Genes and Development

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Richard R. Behringer, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michelle Barton, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Russell Broaddus, M.D., Ph.D.

Committee Member

Yasuhide Furuta, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michael Galko, Ph.D.


The female reproductive tract (FRT) develops midway through embryogenesis, and consists of oviducts, uterine horns, cervix and upper part of the vagina. The uterine horns are composed of an epithelial layer, luminal (LE) and glandular epithelium (GE), surrounded by a mesenchymal layer, the stroma and myometrium. Interestingly, in most mammals the GE forms after birth and it only becomes fully differentiated as the female reaches sexual maturity. Uterine glands (UG) are made up of GE and are present in all mammals. They secrete nutrients, cytokines and several other proteins, termed histotroph, that are necessary for embryo implantation and development. Experiments in ewes and mice have revealed that females who lack UGs are infertile mainly due to impaired implantation and early pregnancy loss, suggesting that UGs are essential for fertility. Fortunately for us, UGs develop after birth allowing us to peer into the genetic mechanism of tubulogenesis and branching morphogenesis; two processes that are disrupted in various adenocarcinomas (cancer derived from glands). We created 3D replicas of the epithelium lining the FRT using optical projection tomography and characterized UG development in mice using lineagetracing experiments. Our findings indicate that mouse UGs develop as simple tubular structures and later grow multiple secretory units that stem from the main duct. The main aim of this project was to study the role of SOX9 in the UGs. Preliminary studies revealed that Sox9 is mostly found in the nucleus of the GE. vii This observation led to the hypothesis that Sox9 plays a role in the formation and/or differentiation of the GE. To study the role of Sox9 in UGs differentiation, we conditionally knocked out and overexpressed Sox9 in both the LE and GE using the progesterone receptor (Pgr) promoter. Overexpressing Sox9 in the uterine epithelium, parts of the stroma, and myometrium led to formation of multiple cystic structures inside the endometrium. Histological analysis revealed that these structures appeared morphologically similar to structures present in histological tissue sections obtained from patients with endometrial polyps. We have accounted for the presence of simple and complex hyperplasia with atypia, metaplasia, thick-walled blood vessels, and stromal fibrosis; all “hallmarks” that indicate overexpressing Sox9 leads to development of a polyp-like morphology. Therefore, we can propose the use of Sox9-cOE mice to study development of endometrial cystic lesions and disease progression into hyperplastic lesions.


SOX9, Uterine Gland Hyperplasia, Female Reproductive Tract Development