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In mouse models used to study parturition or pre-clinical therapeutic testing, measurement of uterine contractions is limited to either isometric tension or operative intrauterine pressure (IUP). The goal of this study was to: (1) develop a method for transcervical insertion of a pressure catheter to measure intrauterine contractile pressure during mouse pregnancy, (2) determine whether this method can be utilized numerous times in a single mouse pregnancy without affecting the timing of delivery or fetal outcome and (3) compare the contractile activity between mouse models of term and preterm labor (PTL). Visualization of the cervix allowed intrauterine pressure catheter (IUPC) placement into anesthetized pregnant mice (plug = day 1, delivery = day 19.5). The amplitude, frequency, duration and area under the curve (AUC) of IUP was lowest on days 16-18, increased significantly ( < 0.05) on the morning of day 19 and reached maximal levels during by the afternoon of day 19 and into the intrapartum period. An AUC threshold of 2.77 mmHg discriminated between inactive labor (day 19 am) and active labor (day 19 pm and intrapartum period). Mice examined on a single vs every experimental timepoint did not have significantly different IUP, timing of delivery, offspring number or fetal/neonatal weight. The IUP was significantly greater in LPS-treated and RU486-treated mouse models of PTL compared to time-matched vehicle control mice. Intrapartum IUP was not significantly different between term and preterm mice. We conclude that utilization of a transcervical IUPC allows sensitive assessment of uterine contractile activity and labor progression in mouse models without the need for operative approaches.
© 2018 Society for Reproduction and Fertility.
The prenatal environment is now recognized as a key driver of non-communicable disease risk later in life. Within the developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD) paradigm, studies are increasingly identifying links between maternal morbidity during pregnancy and disease later in life for offspring. Nutrient restriction, metabolic disorders during gestation, such as diabetes or obesity, and maternal immune activation provoked by infection have been linked to adverse health outcomes for offspring later in life. These factors frequently co-occur, but the potential for compounding effects of multiple morbidities on DOHaD-related outcomes has not received adequate attention. This is of particular importance in low- or middle-income countries (LMICs), which have ongoing high rates of infectious diseases and are now experiencing transitions from undernutrition to excess adiposity. The purpose of this scoping review is to summarize studies examining the effect and interaction of co-occurring metabolic or nutritional stressors and infectious diseases during gestation on DOHaD-related health outcomes. We identified nine studies in humans - four performed in the United States and five in LMICs. The most common outcome, also in seven of nine studies, was premature birth or low birth weight. We identified nine animal studies, six in mice, two in rats and one in sheep. The interaction between metabolic/nutritional exposures and infectious exposures had varying effects including synergism, inhibition and independent actions. No human studies were specifically designed to assess the interaction of metabolic/nutritional exposures and infectious diseases. Future studies of neonatal outcomes should measure these exposures and explicitly examine their concerted effect.
INTRODUCTION - We performed RNA sequencing with the primary goal of discovering key placental villous trophoblast (VT) and decidua basalis (DB) transcripts differentially expressed in intra-amniotic infection (IAI)-induced preterm birth (PTB).
METHODS - RNA was extracted from 15 paired VT and DB specimens delivered of women with: 1) spontaneous PTB in the setting of amniocentesis-proven IAI and histological chorioamnionitis (n = 5); 2) spontaneous idiopathic PTB (iPTB, n = 5); and 3) physiologic term pregnancy (n = 5). RNA sequencing was performed using the Illumina HiSeq 2500 platform, and a spectrum of computational tools was used for gene prioritization and pathway analyses.
RESULTS - In the VT specimens, 128 unique long transcripts and 7 mature microRNAs differed significantly between pregnancies complicated by IAI relative to iPTB (FDR<0.1). The up-regulated transcripts included many characteristic of myeloblast-derived cells, and bioinformatic analyses revealed enrichment for multiple pathways associated with acute inflammation. In an expanded cohort including additional IAI and iPTB specimens, the expression of three proteins (cathepsin S, lysozyme, and hexokinase 3) and two microRNAs (miR-133a and miR-223) was validated using immunohistochemistry and quantitative PCR, respectively. In the DB specimens, only 11 long transcripts and no microRNAs differed significantly between IAI cases and iPTB controls (FDR<0.1). Comparison of the VT and DB specimens in each clinical scenario revealed signatures distinguishing these placental regions.
DISCUSSION - IAI is associated with a transcriptional signature consistent with acute inflammation in the villous trophoblast. The present findings illuminate novel signaling pathways involved in IAI, and suggest putative therapeutic targets and potential biomarkers associated with this condition.
Copyright © 2016. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
Staphylococcus aureus, a metabolically flexible gram-positive pathogen, causes infections in a variety of tissues. Recent evidence implicates S. aureus as an emerging cause of chorioamnionitis and premature rupture of membranes, which are associated with preterm birth and neonatal disease. We demonstrate here that S. aureus infects and forms biofilms on the choriodecidual surface of explanted human gestational membranes. Concomitantly, S. aureus elicits the production of proinflammatory cytokines, which could ultimately perturb maternal-fetal tolerance during pregnancy. Therefore, targeting the immunological response to S. aureus infection during pregnancy could attenuate disease among infected individuals, especially in the context of antibiotic resistance.
Published by Oxford University Press for the Infectious Diseases Society of America 2016. This work is written by (a) US Government employee(s) and is in the public domain in the US.
INTRODUCTION - A major issue in the transcriptomic study of spontaneous preterm birth (sPTB) in humans is the inability to collect healthy control tissue at the same gestational age (GA) to compare with pathologic preterm tissue. Thus, gene expression differences identified after the standard comparison of sPTB and term tissues necessarily reflect differences in both sPTB pathology and GA. One potential solution is to use GA-matched controls from a closely related species to tease apart genes that are dysregulated during sPTB from genes that are expressed differently as a result of GA effects.
METHODS - To disentangle genes whose expression levels are associated with sPTB pathology from those linked to GA, we compared RNA sequencing data from human preterm placentas, human term placentas, and rhesus macaque placentas at 80% completed gestation (serving as healthy non-human primate GA-matched controls). We first compared sPTB and term human placental transcriptomes to identify significantly differentially expressed genes. We then overlaid the results of the comparison between human sPTB and macaque placental transcriptomes to identify sPTB-specific candidates. Finally, we overlaid the results of the comparison between human term and macaque placental transcriptomes to identify GA-specific candidates.
RESULTS - Examination of relative expression for all human genes with macaque orthologs identified 267 candidate genes that were significantly differentially expressed between preterm and term human placentas. 29 genes were identified as sPTB-specific candidates and 37 as GA-specific candidates. Altogether, the 267 differentially expressed genes were significantly enriched for a variety of developmental, metabolic, reproductive, immune, and inflammatory functions. Although there were no notable differences between the functions of the 29 sPTB-specific and 37 GA-specific candidate genes, many of these candidates have been previously shown to be dysregulated in diverse pregnancy-associated pathologies.
DISCUSSION - By comparing human sPTB and term transcriptomes with GA-matched control transcriptomes from a closely related species, this study disentangled the confounding effects of sPTB pathology and GA, leading to the identification of 29 promising sPTB-specific candidate genes and 37 genes potentially related to GA effects. The apparent similarity in functions of the sPTB and GA candidates may suggest that the effects of sPTB and GA do not correspond to biologically distinct processes. Alternatively, it may reflect the poor state of knowledge of the transcriptional landscape underlying placental development and disease.
Copyright © 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Progress in understanding complex genetic diseases has been bolstered by synthetic approaches that overlay diverse data types and analyses to identify functionally important genes. Pre-term birth (PTB), a major complication of pregnancy, is a leading cause of infant mortality worldwide. A major obstacle in addressing PTB is that the mechanisms controlling parturition and birth timing remain poorly understood. Integrative approaches that overlay datasets derived from comparative genomics with function-derived ones have potential to advance our understanding of the genetics of birth timing, and thus provide insights into the genes that may contribute to PTB. We intersected data from fast evolving coding and non-coding gene regions in the human and primate lineage with data from genes expressed in the placenta, from genes that show enriched expression only in the placenta, as well as from genes that are differentially expressed in four distinct PTB clinical subtypes. A large fraction of genes that are expressed in placenta, and differentially expressed in PTB clinical subtypes (23-34%) are fast evolving, and are associated with functions that include adhesion neurodevelopmental and immune processes. Functional categories of genes that express fast evolution in coding regions differ from those linked to fast evolution in non-coding regions. Finally, there is a surprising lack of overlap between fast evolving genes that are differentially expressed in four PTB clinical subtypes. Integrative approaches, especially those that incorporate evolutionary perspectives, can be successful in identifying potential genetic contributions to complex genetic diseases, such as PTB.
BACKGROUND - Preterm birth (PTB), or birth before 37 weeks of gestation, is the leading cause of newborn death worldwide. PTB is a critical area of scientific study not only due to its worldwide toll on human lives and economies, but also due to our limited understanding of its pathogenesis and, therefore, its prevention. This systematic review and meta-analysis synthesizes the landscape of PTB transcriptomics research to further our understanding of the genes and pathways involved in PTB subtypes.
METHODS - We evaluated published genome-wide pregnancy studies across gestational tissues and pathologies, including those that focus on PTB, by performing a targeted PubMed MeSH search and systematically reviewing all relevant studies.
RESULTS - Our search yielded 2,361 studies on gestational tissues including placenta, decidua, myometrium, maternal blood, cervix, fetal membranes (chorion and amnion), umbilical cord, fetal blood, and basal plate. Selecting only those original research studies that measured transcription on a genome-wide scale and reported lists of expressed genetic elements identified 93 gene expression, 21 microRNA, and 20 methylation studies. Although 30 % of all PTB cases are due to medical indications, 76 % of the preterm studies focused on them. In contrast, only 18 % of the preterm studies focused on spontaneous onset of labor, which is responsible for 45 % of all PTB cases. Furthermore, only 23 of the 10,993 unique genetic elements reported to be transcriptionally active were recovered 10 or more times in these 134 studies. Meta-analysis of the 93 gene expression studies across 9 distinct gestational tissues and 29 clinical phenotypes showed limited overlap of genes identified as differentially expressed across studies.
CONCLUSIONS - Overall, profiles of differentially expressed genes were highly heterogeneous both between as well as within clinical subtypes and tissues as well as between studies of the same clinical subtype and tissue. These results suggest that large gaps still exist in the transcriptomic study of specific clinical subtypes as well in the generation of the transcriptional profile of well-studied clinical subtypes; understanding the complex landscape of prematurity will require large-scale, systematic genome-wide analyses of human gestational tissues on both understudied and well-studied subtypes alike.
TCDD (2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin, commonly known as dioxin) is a ubiquitous environmental contaminant and known endocrine disruptor. Using a mouse model, we previously found that adult female mice exposed in utero to TCDD (F1 generation) as well as multiple subsequent generations (F2-F4) exhibited reduced fertility and an increased incidence of spontaneous preterm birth. Additional studies revealed that male F1 mice with a similar in utero/developmental TCDD exposure also exhibited diminished fertility and conferred an increased risk of preterm birth to their unexposed mating partners. Herein, we extend these previous observations, reporting that reduced fertility in male F1 mice is linked to testicular inflammation which coincides with apoptosis of developing spermatocytes, sub-fertility and an increased risk of preterm birth in their unexposed mating partners. Significantly, in the absence of additional toxicant exposure, testicular inflammation and reduced fertility persisted in F2 and F3 males and their control mating partners also frequently exhibited spontaneous preterm birth. Although a steady, global decline in male fertility has been noted over the last few decades, the reasons for these changes have not been firmly established. Likewise, the PTB rate in the U.S. and other countries has paralleled industrial development, suggesting a possible relationship between environmental toxicant exposure and adverse pregnancy outcomes. Most current clinical strategies to prevent preterm birth are focused solely on the mother and have yielded limited benefits. In contrast, our studies strongly suggest that the preconception testicular health of the father is a critical determinant of pregnancy outcomes in mice. Future clinical studies should examine the potential contribution of the male to gestation length in women and whether efforts to reduce the incidence of preterm birth should be initiated in both parents prior to pregnancy.
Globally, an estimated 13 million preterm babies are born each year. These babies are at increased risk of infant mortality and life-long health complications. Interventions to prevent preterm birth (PTB) require an understanding of processes driving parturition. Prostaglandins (PGs) have diverse functions in parturition, including regulation of uterine contractility and tissue remodeling. Our studies on cervical remodeling in mice suggest that although local synthesis of PGs are not increased in term ripening, transcripts encoding PG-endoperoxide synthase 2 (Ptgs2) are induced in lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-mediated premature ripening. This study provides evidence for two distinct pathways of cervical ripening: one dependent on PGs derived from paracrine or endocrine sources and the other independent of PG actions. Cervical PG levels are increased in LPS-treated mice, a model of infection-mediated PTB, consistent with increases in PG synthesizing enzymes and reduction in PG-metabolizing enzymes. Administration of SC-236, a PTGS2 inhibitor, along with LPS attenuated cervical softening, consistent with the essential role of PGs in LPS-induced ripening. In contrast, during term and preterm ripening mediated by the antiprogestin, mifepristone, cervical PG levels, and expression of PG synthetic and catabolic enzymes did not change in a manner that supports a role for PGs. These findings in mice, supported by correlative studies in women, suggest PGs do not regulate all aspects of the parturition process. Additionally, it suggests a need to refocus current strategies toward developing therapies for the prevention of PTB that target early, pathway-specific processes rather than focusing on common late end point mediators of PTB.
PURPOSE - Progestogen has been investigated as a preventive intervention among women with increased preterm birth risk. Our objective was to systematically review the effectiveness of intramuscular (IM), vaginal, and oral progestogens for preterm birth and neonatal death prevention.
METHODS - We included articles published from January 1966 to January 2013 and found 27 randomized trials with data for Bayesian meta-analysis.
RESULTS - Across all studies, only vaginal and oral routes were effective at reducing preterm births (IM risk ratio [RR] 0.95, 95 % Bayesian credible interval [BCI]: 0.88-1.03; vaginal RR 0.87, 95 % BCI: 0.80-0.94; oral RR 0.64, 95 % BCI: 0.49-0.85). However, when analyses were limited to only single births all routes were effective at reducing preterm birth (IM RR 0.77, 95 % BCI: 0.69-0.87; vaginal RR 0.80, 95 % BCI: 0.69-0.91; oral RR 0.66, 95 % BCI: 0.47-0.84). Only IM progestogen was effective at reducing neonatal deaths (IM RR 0.78, 95 % BCI: 0.56-0.99; vaginal RR 0.75, 95 % BCI: 0.45-1.09; oral RR 0.72, 95 % BCI: 0.09-1.74). Vaginal progestogen was effective in reducing neonatal deaths when limited to singletons births.
CONCLUSIONS - All progestogen routes reduce preterm births but not neonatal deaths. Future studies are needed that directly compare progestogen delivery routes.