The matrix metalloproteinase system: changes, regulation, and impact throughout the ovarian and uterine reproductive cycle.


The ovary and uterus undergo extensive tissue remodeling throughout each reproductive cycle. This remodeling of the extracellular environment is dependent upon the cyclic hormonal changes associated with each estrous or menstrual cycle. In the ovary, tissue remodeling is requisite for growth and expansion of the follicle, breakdown of the follicular wall during the ovulatory process, transformation of the postovulatory follicle into the corpus luteum, as well as the structural dissolution of the corpus luteum during luteal regression. In the uterus, there is extraordinary turnover of the endometrial connective tissue matrix during each menstrual cycle. This turnover encompasses the complete breakdown and loss of this layer, followed by its subsequent regrowth. With implantation, extensive remodeling of the uterus occurs to support placentation. These dynamic changes in the ovarian and uterine extracellular architecture are regulated, in part, by the matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) system. The MMP system acts to control connective tissue remodeling processes throughout the body and is comprised of both a proteolytic component, the MMPs, and a regulatory component, the associated tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases. The current review will highlight the key features of the MMPs and tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases, focus on the changes and regulation of the MMP system that take place throughout the estrous and menstrual cycles, and address the impact of the dynamic tissue remodeling processes on ovarian and uterine physiology.