As an “incubator” for next generation scientists and medical doctors, Ye Lab is consisted of graduate students, undergraduate students, and the PI, and focused on basic research in Female Reproductive Biology and Reproductive Toxicology.
Female Reproductive Biology, with a focus on “molecular mechanisms of embryo implantation”
Embryo implantation is a critical initial step for successful reproduction in most mammals. It refers to a process when a receptive uterus accepts a competent embryo to implant into the uterine endometrium. During early pregnancy, the endometrium undergoes a series of precisely coordinated molecular and cellular events to transiently transform into a receptive state. Uterine receptivity refers to such a transient state in which the maternal endometrium is receptive for an embryo to implant. The master controls of this transient state are the ovarian hormones progesterone and estrogen. Defective uterine receptivity is a main contributing factor for female infertility in the general population and low pregnancy rate in patients undergoing in vitro fertilization. Although significant progress has been made during the past decades, the understanding of how the uterus transiently transforms into a receptive state remains far from complete. The uterine epithelium is the first layer of cells that an embryo communicates with for embryo implantation. It is considered essential for the receptive sensitivity of the uterus. One main focus of our research is on the molecular mechanisms of uterine epithelial transformation during the establishment of uterine receptivity using different mouse models (Ye et al., Nature 2005; Diao et al., Biol Reprod 2010, 2013, 2015; Xiao et al., Reprod Sci 2014; Xiao et al., Biol Reprod 2017; Ye, Trends Endocrinol Metab 2020). Our goal is to gain more insights into the molecular mechanisms for the establishment of uterine receptivity, eventually help the diagnosis and treatment of female infertility associated with defective uterine receptivity. Progesterone is essential for supporting embryo implantation in all mammalian species. It is mainly produced in the corpus luteum during early pregnancy. We are also studying molecular mechanisms in corpus luteum maintenance for supporting embryo implantation (El Zowalaty et al., Endocrinology 2017; Wang & El Zowalaty et al., Biol Reprod 2019).
Female Reproductive Toxicology, with a focus on “endocrine disruptors and pregnancy”
The other main focus of our research is on the effects and mechanisms of endocrine disruptors on pregnancy in mouse models. Since pregnancy is a hormonally controlled process, it is susceptible to endocrine disruption. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that can interfere with the endocrine system to affect pregnancy. We have investigated the effects of several endocrine disruptors, such as zearalenone (a mycotoxin commonly found in livestock feed and human food) and genistein (a phytoestrogen in soy diets) on female puberty, early pregnancy events, and placental development (Xiao et al., Reprod Toxicol 2011; Zhao et al., Toxicol Sci 2013; Zhao et al., Reprod Toxicol 2014; Li et al., Reprod Toxicol 2014, 2015; Li & Andersen et al., Reprod Toxicol 2019; Andersen & Li et al., Biol Reprod 2020). Our goal is to understand the molecular mechanisms of how endocrine disruptors affect pregnancy to help the risk assessment of endocrine disruptors.