The process of embryo attachment and implantation is accompanied by dramatic cellular and functional changes in the endometrium, the control and mechanisms of which are not clearly understood. The cDNA cloning of differentially expressed genes, specifically at implantation sites in the rabbit endometrium, was used to identify genes controlling functional and remodeling changes. Tissue from the endometrium of Day 6(3/4) (preimplantation) and Day 8 (implantation initiation) pregnant rabbits was used to screen for differentially expressed genes by combined cDNA subtraction/suppressive hybridization. Twenty-nine differentially expressed genes were identified encoding protein modification enzymes, signaling proteins, structural proteins, and enzymes. One of these is a novel member of the E2 ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme family we have designated UBCi (i for implantation), which displayed dramatic nucleotide and deduced amino acid sequence conservation between rabbits, humans, and mice. In situ hybridization indicated UBCi expression exclusively in the luminal epithelium of the endometrium while glandular epithelium, trophoblast, and myometrium were negative. Expression was specific for epithelial cells at implantation sites and was not detected in non-implant-site endometrium. UBCi mRNA was detected in both the mesometrial and antimesometrial epithelial cells of the implantation sites, sites undergoing both differentiation and/or apoptosis. These results identify a group of differentially expressed genes in the endometrium including UBCi and provide new focal targets for studying processes controlling cellular remodeling during implantation. The important roles of ubiquitination in controlling the activities and turnover of key signaling proteins suggest potential roles in controlling critical aspects of implantation.