Research Projects
The use of endometrial surface proteins for human endometrial receptivity prediction (HMRF)

Programme(s) to which this project applies:

☑ MPhil/PhD ☒ MRes[Med] ☒ URIS

In humans, the natural rate of conception is about 30%, with most failed pregnancies due to implantation failure. In fact, successful implantation depends on the synchronized development and cross-talk among embryos, endometrial epithelial and stromal cells. Expressions of certain surface protein markers during the secretory phase of the endometrium is crucial for successful implantation of the embryo. We recently used a proteomic approach to compare surface proteins expressed in human endometrial (receptive: Ishikawa and non-receptive: AN3CA) epithelial cell lines and identified Protein Disulfide-Isomerase (PDI) as one of the surface proteins that were highly expressed in non-receptive endometrial AN3CA cells. PDI is a soluble 55-kDa protein mainly located in the endoplasmic reticulum and functions to maintain an oxidative environment. However, cell membrane PDI mainly acts as a reductase. Interestingly, PDI binds to b3 integrin to regulate endothelial and platelet functions. Importantly, b3 integrin was highly expressed in receptive endometrium during the ‘window of implantation’ and down-regulated in women with unexplained recurrent pregnancy loss.

We hypothesize that the receptivity of endometrial epithelial cells is regulated by steroid hormones involved in membrane localization of PDI, which in turn regulates b3 integrin function for spheroid/embryo attachment. Therefore, we propose (1) to study the effect of steroid hormones on the expression and membrane localization of PDI and on spheroid attachment, (2) to investigate the role of PDI on b3 integrin activity and bisulfide bond formation in regulating spheroid attachment; and (3) to investigate the expression of PDI and/or b3 integrin in endometrial epithelial cells as surface markers to predict implantation and pregnancy in clinical IVF. Results from this study will give us a better understanding of the role of PDI and b3 integrin proteins for embryo attachment, and whether PDI and 3 integrin can be used as predictors of implantation and pregnancy in clinical IVF.

Dr CKF Lee, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology

Dr. Lee got his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and trained in postdoctoral training at Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA. He joined the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at The University of Hong Kong as a Research Assistant Professor in 1998 and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2008. He was Past-President of the Hong Kong Society for Reproductive Medicine, and the Hong Kong Society of Endocrinology, Metabolism, and Reproduction. He has published more than 90 original articles in international journals with an H index of 32 (total citation >3000). His students have obtained many international and local awards including ‘The Best Poster Award of Society for the Study of Reproduction (SSR) – Southeast Asia Region’.

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For more information or to express interest for this project, please email the supervisor or the specified contact point in the project description.  Interested candidates are advised to enclose with your email:

  1. your CV,
  2. a brief description of your research interest and experience, and
  3. two reference letters (not required for HKUMed UG students seeking MRes[Med]/URIS projects).

Information on the research programme, funding support and admission documentations could be referenced online at the Research Postgraduate Admissions website. General admission enquiries should be directed to

HKUMed MBBS students interested in the Master of Research in Medicine (MRes[Med]) programme may visit the programme website for more information.  

HKUMed UG students interested in the Undergraduate Research Internship Scheme (URIS) may visit the scheme’s website for more information.