MicroRNAs—mediators of myometrial contractility during pregnancy and labour

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Abstract

The maintenance of myometrial quiescence and initiation of contractility, which lead to parturition at term and preterm, involve a shifting equilibrium between anti-inflammatory and proinflammatory signalling pathways. Progesterone (P4), acting through the progesterone receptor (PR), has an essential and multifaceted role in the maintenance of myometrial quiescence. This effect of P4-PR signalling is mediated, in part, by its anti-inflammatory actions and capacity to repress the expression of genes that encode proinflammatory cytokines, such as IL-1 and IL-6, and contraction-associated proteins, such as OXTR, GJA1 and PTGS2. By contrast, increased expression of genes that ultimately lead to parturition is mediated by enhanced inflammatory and estradiol-17β (E2) and estrogen receptor α signalling, which reduce PR function, thus further intensifying the inflammatory response. To obtain a more complete understanding of the molecular events that underlie the transition of the pregnant myometrium from a refractory to a contractile state, the roles of microRNAs, their targets, and their transcriptional and hormonal regulation have been investigated. This article reviews the actions of the miR-200 family and their P4-regulated targets—the transcription factors ZEB1, ZEB2 and STAT5B—in the pregnant myometrium, as well as the role of miR-199a-3p and miR-214 and their mutual target PTGS2. The central role of ZEB1 as the mediator of the opposing actions of P4 and E2 on myometrial contractility will be highlighted.

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