Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) affects up to 10% of pregnancies in Western societies. IUGR is a strong predictor of reduced short-term neonatal survival and impairs long-term health in children. Placental insufficiency is often associated with IUGR; however, the molecular mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of placental insufficiency and IUGR are largely unknown. Here, we developed a mouse model of fetal-growth restriction and placental insufficiency that is induced by a midgestational stress challenge. Compared with control animals, pregnant dams subjected to gestational stress exhibited reduced progesterone levels and placental heme oxygenase 1 (Hmox1) expression and increased methylation at distinct regions of the placental Hmox1 promoter. These stress-triggered changes were accompanied by an altered CD8+ T cell response, as evidenced by a reduction of tolerogenic CD8+CD122+ T cells and an increase of cytotoxic CD8+ T cells. Using progesterone receptor– or Hmox1-deficient mice, we identified progesterone as an upstream modulator of placental Hmox1 expression. Supplementation of progesterone or depletion of CD8+ T cells revealed that progesterone suppresses CD8+ T cell cytotoxicity, whereas the generation of CD8+CD122+ T cells is supported by Hmox1 and ameliorates fetal-growth restriction in Hmox1 deficiency. These observations in mice could promote the identification of pregnancies at risk for IUGR and the generation of clinical interventional strategies.
María Emilia Solano, Mirka Katharina Kowal, Greta Eugenia O’Rourke, Andrea Kristina Horst, Kathrin Modest, Torsten Plösch, Roja Barikbin, Chressen Catharina Remus, Robert G. Berger, Caitlin Jago, Hoang Ho, Gabriele Sass, Victoria J. Parker, John P. Lydon, Francesco J. DeMayo, Kurt Hecher, Khalil Karimi, Petra Clara Arck
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