H3K27me3 dynamics dictate evolving uterine states in pregnancy and parturition

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Abstract

Uncovering the causes of pregnancy complications such as preterm labor requires greater insight into how the uterus remains in a noncontractile state until term and then surmounts this state to enter labor. Here, we show that dynamic generation and erasure of the repressive histone modification tri-methyl histone H3 lysine 27 (H3K27me3) in decidual stromal cells dictate both elements of pregnancy success in mice. In early gestation, H3K27me3-induced transcriptional silencing of select gene targets ensured uterine quiescence by preventing the decidua from expressing parturition-inducing hormone receptors, manifesting type 1 immunity, and most unexpectedly, generating myofibroblasts and associated wound-healing responses. In late gestation, genome-wide H3K27 demethylation allowed for target gene upregulation, decidual activation, and labor entry. Pharmacological inhibition of H3K27 demethylation in late gestation not only prevented term parturition, but also inhibited delivery while maintaining pup viability in a noninflammatory model of preterm parturition. Immunofluorescence analysis of human specimens suggested that similar regulatory events might occur in the human decidua. Together, these results reveal the centrality of regulated gene silencing in the uterine adaptation to pregnancy and suggest new areas in the study and treatment of pregnancy disorders.

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