An interplay of progesterone, leukemia inhibitor factor and interleukin-6 in the window of implantation; impact on fertility

Document Type



Biological and Biomedical Sciences


Background: The process of implantation is crucial for the initiation of conception and hence fertility. In addition to a number of factors, it is regulated by a cross talk of gonadotrophins [Luteinizing Hormone (LH), Follicle Stimulatory Hormone (FSH)], ovarian steroids [Estrogen (Et), Progesterone (Pt)] and cytokines [Leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) and Interleukin 6 (IL6)]. These biomarkers are chief players of implantation.
Objective: We aimed to explore the role of gonadotrophins (LH, FSH, LH/FSH ratio), ovarian steroids (Et, Pt) and cytokines (LIF, IL6) in the implantation process. This aim was achieved by comparing these hormones and cytokines in the fertile and infertile groups [Polycystic ovaries (PCOs), endometriosis, unexplained infertility (Uex-IF)] and finding their association in all study groups.
Methods: A case control study conducted from October 2020-March 2023. A total of 135 infertile women (with PCOs, Uex-IF, and endometriosis) and 177 fertile women (matched for age and BMI) were selected. Levels of 'Et', 'Pt', 'LIF' and, 'IL6' were estimated using Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA). LH and FSH values were obtained from hospital desk records. The Independent Student'st-test was used to compare fertile and infertile groups. One-way ANOVA test was used to compare more than two groups, and Pearson's chi-square (χ2) test was employed to compare percentages of variables. Pearson correlation analysis was performed to assess the associations and correlations. A p value < 0.05 was considered statistically significant.
Results: Significantly higher levels of LIF and IL6 were observed in fertile women compared to infertile women. Pt levels were significantly greater in the fertile group than in the infertile group. The FSH/LH ratio was significantly higher in the fertile group. Among infertile women, PCOs (71%) and Uex-IF (91%) exhibited lower Pt levels than the fertile controls (p < 0.01), but these levels remained within the reference range (RR). Among the fertile group (81%), levels of LIF within the RR were significantly higher compared to those with Uex-IF (49%) and females with endometriosis (37%). Moreover, the highest number of participants (57%) with Uex-IF exhibited IL6 levels significantly below the RR in comparison to the fertile group and infertile groups (PCOS and endometriosis). However, lower levels of IL6 were observed in women with Uex-IF. In the control group, LIF exhibited a significant positive correlation with IL6 (r = 0.370), Pt (r = 0.496), Et (r = 0.403), and LH (r = 0.428). Among women with PCOs, LIF showed a significant positive correlation with IL6 (r = 0.443), Pt (r = 0.607), and LH (r = 0.472). In cases of Uex-IF, LIF demonstrated a significant positive correlation with IL6 (r = 0.727). Females with endometriosis displayed a significant positive correlation between LIF and IL6 (r = 0.535) as well as Pt (r = 0.605). In fertile women, a positive correlation was observed between LH and IL6 (r = 0.197, p = 0.009), LIF (r = 0.428, p = 0.000), Pt (r = 0.238, p = 0.001), and Et (r = 0.356, p = 0.000). Furthermore, a positive correlation was found between LH and LIF (r = 0.472, p = 0.000) in women with PCOs.
Conclusion: Elevated levels of Pt were found to increase the production of LIF in fertile females. However, infertile females with PCOs and Uex-IF exhibited deficient levels of Pt, supporting its role as a biomarker for successful implantation in infertile women. These females showed decreased levels of gonadotropins as well as reduced LH/FSH ratio and diminished secretion of receptivity marker LIF, in addition to reduced Pt secretion. This suggests that reduced gonadotropin levels contribute to a lower LH/FSH ratio, resulting in decreased Pt secretion and ultimately leading to low levels of LIF, thereby causing impaired implantation in women with PCOs and Uex-IF. The exploration of low levels of LIF in patients with endometriosis requires further investigation. The significantly low levels of IL6 in the Uex-IF group elucidate the role of this cytokine in association with decreased Pt and LIF synthesis within this group.


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