An incomplete understanding of the molecular events that regulate the myometrial transition from the quiescent pregnant state to the active contractile state during labor has hindered the development of improved therapies for preterm labor. During myometrial activation, proteins that prime the smooth muscle for contraction are upregulated, allowing maximal responsiveness to contractile agonists and thereby producing strong phasic contractions. Upregulation of one such protein, COX-2, generates PGs that induce contractions. Intriguingly, the predominant myometrial PG produced just prior to labor is prostacyclin (PGI2), a smooth muscle relaxant. However, here we have shown that activation of PGI2 receptor (IP) upregulated the expression of several contractile proteins and the gap junction protein connexin 43 through cAMP/PKA signaling in human myometrial tissue in organ and cell culture. Functionally, these IP-dependent changes in gene expression promoted an enhanced contractile response to oxytocin in pregnant human myometrial tissue strips, which was inhibited by the IP antagonist RO3244794. Furthermore, contractile protein induction was dependent on the concentration and time of exposure to the PGI2 analog iloprost and was blocked by both RO3244794 and PKA knockdown. We therefore propose that PGI2-mediated upregulation of contractile proteins and connexin 43 is a critical step in myometrial activation, allowing for a maximal contractile response. Our observations have important implications regarding activation of the myometrium prior to the onset of labor.
Kristina M. Fetalvero, Peisheng Zhang, Maureen Shyu, Benjamin T. Young, John Hwa, Roger C. Young, Kathleen A. Martin
Implantation is a key stage during pregnancy, as the fate of the embryo is often decided upon its first contact with the maternal endometrium. Around this time, DCs accumulate in the uterus; however, their role in pregnancy and, more specifically, implantation, remains unknown. We investigated the function of uterine DCs (uDCs) during implantation using a transgenic mouse model that allows conditional ablation of uDCs in a spatially and temporally regulated manner. Depletion of uDCs resulted in a severe impairment of the implantation process, leading to embryo resorption. Depletion of uDCs also caused embryo resorption in syngeneic and T cell–deficient pregnancies, which argues against a failure to establish immunological tolerance during implantation. Moreover, even in the absence of embryos, experimentally induced deciduae failed to adequately form. Implantation failure was associated with impaired decidual proliferation and differentiation. Dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI revealed perturbed angiogenesis characterized by reduced vascular expansion and attenuated maturation. We suggest therefore that uDCs directly fine-tune decidual angiogenesis by providing two critical factors, sFlt1 and TGF-β1, that promote coordinated blood vessel maturation. Collectively, uDCs appear to govern uterine receptivity, independent of their predicted role in immunological tolerance, by regulating tissue remodeling and angiogenesis. Importantly, our results may aid in understanding the limited implantation success of embryos transferred following in vitro fertilization.
Vicki Plaks, Tal Birnberg, Tamara Berkutzki, Shay Sela, Adi BenYashar, Vyacheslav Kalchenko, Gil Mor, Eli Keshet, Nava Dekel, Michal Neeman, Steffen Jung
Egg activation, which is the first step in the initiation of embryo development, involves both completion of meiosis and progression into mitotic cycles. In mammals, the fertilizing sperm delivers the activating signal, which consists of oscillations in free cytosolic Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i). Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is a technique that in vitro fertilization clinics use to treat a myriad of male factor infertility cases. Importantly, some patients who repeatedly fail ICSI also fail to induce egg activation and are, therefore, sterile. Here, we have found that sperm from patients who repeatedly failed ICSI were unable to induce [Ca2+]i oscillations in mouse eggs. We have also shown that PLC, zeta 1 (PLCZ1), the sperm protein thought to induce [Ca2+]i oscillations, was localized to the equatorial region of wild-type sperm heads but was undetectable in sperm from patients who had failed ICSI. The absence of PLCZ1 in these patients was further confirmed by Western blot, although genomic sequencing failed to reveal conclusive PLCZ1 mutations. Using mouse eggs, we reproduced the failure of sperm from these patients to induce egg activation and rescued it by injection of mouse Plcz1 mRNA. Together, our results indicate that the inability of human sperm to initiate [Ca2+]i oscillations leads to failure of egg activation and sterility and that abnormal PLCZ1 expression underlies this functional defect.
Sook-Young Yoon, Teru Jellerette, Ana Maria Salicioni, Hoi Chang Lee, Myung-sik Yoo, Kevin Coward, John Parrington, Daniel Grow, Jose B. Cibelli, Pablo E. Visconti, Jesse Mager, Rafael A. Fissore
Women with antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), a condition characterized by the presence of antiphospholipid antibodies (aPL), often suffer pregnancy-related complications, including miscarriage. We have previously shown that C5a induction of tissue factor (TF) expression in neutrophils contributes to respiratory burst, trophoblast injury, and pregnancy loss in mice treated with aPL. Here we analyzed how TF contributes to neutrophil activation and trophoblast injury in this model. Neutrophils from aPL-treated mice expressed protease-activated receptor 2 (PAR2), and stimulation of this receptor led to neutrophil activation, trophoblast injury, and fetal death. An antibody specific for human TF that has little impact on coagulation, but potently inhibits TF/Factor VIIa (FVIIa) signaling through PAR2, inhibited aPL-induced neutrophil activation in mice that expressed human TF. Genetic deletion of the TF cytoplasmic domain, which allows interaction between TF and PAR2, reduced aPL-induced neutrophil activation in aPL-treated mice. Par2–/– mice treated with aPL exhibited reduced neutrophil activation and normal pregnancies, which indicates that PAR2 plays an important role in the pathogenesis of aPL-induced fetal injury. We also demonstrated that simvastatin and pravastatin decreased TF and PAR2 expression on neutrophils and prevented pregnancy loss. Our results suggest that TF/FVIIa/PAR2 signaling mediates neutrophil activation and fetal death in APS and that statins may be a good treatment for women with aPL-induced pregnancy complications.
Patricia Redecha, Claus-Werner Franzke, Wolfram Ruf, Nigel Mackman, Guillermina Girardi
Idiopathic hypogonadotropic hypogonadism (IHH) with anosmia (Kallmann syndrome; KS) or with a normal sense of smell (normosmic IHH; nIHH) are heterogeneous genetic disorders associated with deficiency of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). While loss-of-function mutations in FGF receptor 1 (FGFR1) cause human GnRH deficiency, to date no specific ligand for FGFR1 has been identified in GnRH neuron ontogeny. Using a candidate gene approach, we identified 6 missense mutations in FGF8 in IHH probands with variable olfactory phenotypes. These patients exhibited varied degrees of GnRH deficiency, including the rare adult-onset form of hypogonadotropic hypogonadism. Four mutations affected all 4 FGF8 splice isoforms (FGF8a, FGF8b, FGF8e, and FGF8f), while 2 mutations affected FGF8e and FGF8f isoforms only. The mutant FGF8b and FGF8f ligands exhibited decreased biological activity in vitro. Furthermore, mice homozygous for a hypomorphic Fgf8 allele lacked GnRH neurons in the hypothalamus, while heterozygous mice showed substantial decreases in the number of GnRH neurons and hypothalamic GnRH peptide concentration. In conclusion, we identified FGF8 as a gene implicated in GnRH deficiency in both humans and mice and demonstrated an exquisite sensitivity of GnRH neuron development to reductions in FGF8 signaling.
John Falardeau, Wilson C.J. Chung, Andrew Beenken, Taneli Raivio, Lacey Plummer, Yisrael Sidis, Elka E. Jacobson-Dickman, Anna V. Eliseenkova, Jinghong Ma, Andrew Dwyer, Richard Quinton, Sandra Na, Janet E. Hall, Celine Huot, Natalie Alois, Simon H.S. Pearce, Lindsay W. Cole, Virginia Hughes, Moosa Mohammadi, Pei Tsai, Nelly Pitteloud
Luteinizing hormone (LH), produced in the anterior lobe of the pituitary, is a member of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonad axis that is required for production of the sex hormones estradiol, progesterone, and testosterone. Perturbations in levels of hormones associated with this axis can result in defects in sexual development and maturity. LH bears unique N-linked carbohydrate units that terminate with a sulfated N-acetylgalactosamine structure (GalNAc-4-SO4) that mediates its clearance from the blood. To determine the significance of this terminal structure, we ablated the gene encoding the sulfotransferase responsible for sulfate addition to GalNAc on LH, GalNAc-4-sulfotransferase-1 (GalNAc-4-ST1) in mice. Mice lacking GalNAc-4-ST1 exhibited increased levels of circulating LH. In male mice, this resulted in elevated levels of testosterone and precocious maturation of testis and seminal vesicles. Female mice lacking GalNAc-4-ST1 demonstrated elevated estrogen levels and exhibited precocious sexual maturation and increased fecundity. Female mice remained in estrus for prolonged periods and produced almost 50% more litters per mouse than wild-type mice over the same period of time. Thus, sulfate modification of the terminal glycosylation of LH plays a central role in regulating the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonad axis in vivo.
Yiling Mi, Dorothy Fiete, Jacques U. Baenziger
The microRNA (miRNA) processing enzyme Dicer1 is required for zygotic and embryonic development, but the early embryonic lethality of Dicer1 null alleles in mice has limited our ability to address the role of Dicer1 in normal mouse growth and development. To address this question, we used a mouse mutant with a hypomorphic Dicer1 allele (Dicerd/d) and found that Dicer1 deficiency resulted in female infertility. This defect in female Dicerd/d mice was caused by corpus luteum (CL) insufficiency and resulted, at least in part, from the impaired growth of new capillary vessels in the ovary. We found that the impaired CL angiogenesis in Dicerd/d mice was associated with a lack of miR17-5p and let7b, 2 miRNAs that participate in angiogenesis by regulating the expression of the antiangiogenic factor tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase 1. Furthermore, injection of miR17-5p and let7b into the ovaries of Dicerd/d mice partially normalized tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase 1 expression and CL angiogenesis. Our data indicate that the development and function of the ovarian CL is a physiological process that appears to be regulated by miRNAs and requires Dicer1 function.
Motoyuki Otsuka, Min Zheng, Masaaki Hayashi, Jing-Dwan Lee, Osamu Yoshino, Shengcai Lin, Jiahuai Han
Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) is a common, debilitating disorder affecting millions of women. Uterosacral ligaments (USLs) are the main supportive structures of the uterus and vagina and are often attenuated in women with POP. Although the mechanical strength of USLs is known to be dependent on collagen synthesis and catabolism and the degradation protein MMP2 has been implicated in POP, the molecular mechanisms involved in the development of POP are currently unknown. Homeobox (HOX) genes are transcriptional regulators that orchestrate embryonic development of the urogenital tract. We demonstrated here that HOXA11 was essential for organogenesis of the USL by showing that USLs were absent in Hoxa11-null mice. We compared expression of HOXA11, collagen type I, collagen type III, MMP2, and MMP9 in USLs of women with and without POP. Expression of HOXA11 and both collagens was dramatically decreased while MMP2 was increased in women with POP. Constitutive expression of Hoxa11 in murine fibroblasts resulted in significantly increased expression of collagen type III and decreased expression of MMP2. These results identified HOXA11 as an essential gene for the development of the USL and suggested that women with POP might have weakened connective tissue due to changes in a signaling pathway involving HOXA11, collagen type III, and MMP2.
Kathleen A. Connell, Marsha K. Guess, Heidi Chen, Vaagn Andikyan, Richard Bercik, Hugh S. Taylor
Maternal smoking during pregnancy is associated with a variety of adverse neonatal outcomes including altered reproductive performance. Herein we provide molecular evidence for a pathway involved in the elimination of the female germline due to prepregnancy and/or lactational exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), environmental toxicants found in cigarette smoke. We show that ovaries of offspring born to mice exposed to PAHs contained only a third of the ovarian follicle pool compared with offspring of unexposed female mice. Activation of the cell death pathway in immature follicles of exposed females was mediated by the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (Ahr), as ovarian reserve was fully rescued by maternal cotreatment with the Ahr antagonist, resveratrol, or by inactivation of the Ahr gene. Furthermore, in response to PAHs, Ahr-mediated activation of the harakiri, BCL2 interacting protein (contains only BH3 domain), was necessary for execution of cell death. This pathway appeared to be conserved between mouse and human, as xenotransplanted human ovarian cortex exposed to PAHs responded by activation of the identical cell death cascade. Our data indicate that maternal exposure to PAHs prior to pregnancy and/or during lactation compromises ovarian reserve of female offspring, raising the concern about the transgenerational impact of maternal smoking on ovarian function in the human.
Andrea Jurisicova, Asako Taniuchi, Han Li, Yuan Shang, Monica Antenos, Jacqui Detmar, Jing Xu, Tiina Matikainen, Adalberto Benito Hernández, Gabriel Nunez, Robert F. Casper
Uterine decidualization, a process that occurs in response to embryo implantation, is critical for embryonic survival and thus is a key event for successful pregnancy. Here we show that the sphingolipid metabolic pathway is highly activated in the deciduum during pregnancy and disturbance of the pathway by disruption of sphingosine kinase (Sphk) genes causes defective decidualization with severely compromised uterine blood vessels, leading to early pregnancy loss. Sphk-deficient female mice (Sphk1–/–Sphk2+/–) exhibited both an enormous accumulation of dihydrosphingosine and sphingosine and a reduction in phosphatidylethanolamine levels in pregnant uteri. These mice also revealed increased cell death in decidual cells, decreased cell proliferation in undifferentiated stromal cells, and massive breakage of decidual blood vessels, leading to uterine hemorrhage and early embryonic lethality. Thus, sphingolipid metabolism regulates proper uterine decidualization and blood vessel stability. Our findings also suggest that disturbance in sphingolipid metabolism may be considered as a cause of pregnancy loss in humans.
Kiyomi Mizugishi, Cuiling Li, Ana Olivera, Jacek Bielawski, Alicja Bielawska, Chu-Xia Deng, Richard L. Proia