Abnormal uterine activity in pregnancy causes a range of important clinical disorders, including preterm birth, dysfunctional labour and post-partum haemorrhage. Uterine contractile patterns are controlled by the generation of complex electrical signals at the myometrial smooth muscle plasma membrane. To identify novel targets to treat conditions associated with uterine dysfunction, we undertook a genome-wide screen of potassium channels that are enriched in myometrial smooth muscle. Computational modelling identified Kir7.1 as potentially important in regulating uterine excitability during pregnancy. We demonstrate Kir7.1 current hyper-polarizes uterine myocytes and promotes quiescence during gestation. Labour is associated with a decline, but not loss, of Kir7.1 expression. Knockdown of Kir7.1 by lentiviral expression of miRNA was sufficient to increase uterine contractile force and duration significantly. Conversely, overexpression of Kir7.1 inhibited uterine contractility. Finally, we demonstrate that the Kir7.1 inhibitor VU590 as well as novel derivative compounds induces profound, long-lasting contractions in mouse and human myometrium; the activity of these inhibitors exceeds that of other uterotonic drugs. We conclude Kir7.1 regulates the transition from quiescence to contractions in the pregnant uterus and may be a target for therapies to control uterine contractility.
Abdominal uterine electromyograms (uEMG) studies have focused on uterine contractions to describe the evolution of uterine activity and preterm birth (PTB) prediction. Stationary, non-contracting uEMG has not been studied. The aim of the study was to investigate the recurring patterns in stationary uEMG, their relationship with gestation age and PTB, and PTB predictivity. A public database of 300 (38 PTB) three-channel (S1-S3) uEMG recordings of 30 min, collected between 22 and 35 weeks' gestation, was used. Motion and labour contraction-free intervals in uEMG were identified as 5-min weak-sense stationarity intervals in 268 (34 PTB) recordings. Sample entropy (SampEn), percentage recurrence (PR), percentage determinism (PD), entropy (ER), and maximum length (L MAX) of recurrence were calculated and analysed according to the time to delivery and PTB. Random time series were generated by random shuffle (RS) of actual data. Recurrence was present in actual data (p<0.001) but not RS. In S3, PR (p<0.005), PD (p<0.01), ER (p<0.005), and L MAX (p<0.05) were higher, and SampEn lower (p<0.005) in PTB. Recurrence indices increased (all p<0.001) and SampEn decreased (p<0.01) with decreasing time to delivery, suggesting increasingly regular and recurring patterns with gestation progression. All indices predicted PTB with AUC?0.62 (p<0.05). Recurring patterns in stationary non-contracting uEMG were associated with time to delivery but were relatively poor predictors of PTB.
Here we provide a protocol for the directed differentiation of hEPI-NCSC into midbrain dopaminergic neurons, which degenerate in Parkinson's disease. hEPI-NCSC are neural crest-derived multipotent stem cells that persist into adulthood in the bulge of hair follicles. The experimental design is distinctly different from conventional protocols for embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. It includes pre-differentiation of the multipotent hEPI-NCSC into neural stem cell-like cells, followed by ventralizing, patterning, continued exposure to the TGF? receptor inhibitor, SB431542, and at later stages of differentiation the presence of the WNT inhibitor, IWP-4. All cells expressed A9 midbrain dopaminergic neuron progenitor markers with gene expression levels comparable to those in normal human substantia nigra. The current study shows for the first time that virtually homogeneous populations of dopaminergic neurons can be derived ex vivo from somatic stem cells without the need for purification, with useful timeliness and high efficacy. This novel development is an important first step towards the establishment of fully functional dopaminergic neurons from an ontologically relevant stem cell type, hEPI-NCSC.
The uterus and heart share the important physiological feature whereby contractile activation of the muscle tissue is regulated by the generation of periodic, spontaneous electrical action potentials (APs). Preterm birth arising from premature uterine contractions is a major complication of pregnancy and there remains a need to pursue avenues of research that facilitate the use of drugs, tocolytics, to limit these inappropriate contractions without deleterious actions on cardiac electrical excitation. A novel approach is to make use of mathematical models of uterine and cardiac APs, which incorporate many ionic currents contributing to the AP forms, and test the cell-specific responses to interventions. We have used three such models-of uterine smooth muscle cells (USMC), cardiac sinoatrial node cells (SAN), and ventricular cells-to investigate the relative effects of reducing two important voltage-gated Ca currents-the L-type (ICaL) and T-type (ICaT) Ca currents. Reduction of ICaL (10%) alone, or ICaT (40%) alone, blunted USMC APs with little effect on ventricular APs and only mild effects on SAN activity. Larger reductions in either current further attenuated the USMC APs but with also greater effects on SAN APs. Encouragingly, a combination of ICaL and ICaT reduction did blunt USMC APs as intended with little detriment to APs of either cardiac cell type. Subsequent overlapping maps of ICaL and ICaT inhibition profiles from each model revealed a range of combined reductions of ICaL and ICaT over which an appreciable diminution of USMC APs could be achieved with no deleterious action on cardiac SAN or ventricular APs. This novel approach illustrates the potential for computational biology to inform us of possible uterine and cardiac cell-specific mechanisms. Incorporating such computational approaches in future studies directed at designing new, or repurposing existing, tocolytics will be beneficial for establishing a desired uterine specificity of action.
The discrete regulation of vascular tone in the human uterine and placental circulations is a key determinant of appropriate uteroplacental blood perfusion and pregnancy success. Humoral factors such as oestrogen, which increases in the placenta and maternal circulation throughout human pregnancy, may regulate these vascular beds as studies of animal arteries have shown that 17?-oestradiol, or agonists of oestrogen receptors (ER), can exert acute vasodilatory actions. The aim of this study was to compare how acute exposure to ER-specific agonists, and 17?-oestradiol, altered human placental and uterine arterial tone in vitro. Uterine and placental arteries were isolated from biopsies obtained from women with uncomplicated pregnancy delivering a singleton infant at term. Vessels were mounted on a wire myograph, exposed to the thromboxane receptor agonist U46619 (10(-6)M), and then incubated with incremental doses (5 mins, 0.03-30 µM)) of either 17?-oestradiol or agonists specific for the ERs ER? (PPT), ER? (DPN) or the G-protein-coupled oestrogen receptor GPER-1 (G1). ER? and ER? mRNA expression was assessed. 17?-oestradiol, PPT and DPN each relaxed myometrial arteries (p<0.05) in a manner that was partly endothelium-dependent. In contrast, 17?-oestradiol or DPN relaxed placental arteries (maximum relaxation to 42±1.1% or 47.6±6.53% of pre-constriction respectively) to a lesser extent than myometrial arteries (to 0.03±0.03% or 8.0±1.0%) and in an endothelial-independent manner whereas PPT was without effect. G1 exposure did not inhibit the constriction of myometrial nor placenta arteries. mRNA expression of ER? and ER? was greater in myometrial arteries than placental arteries. ER-specific agonists, and 17?-oestradiol, differentially modulate the tone of uterine versus placental arteries highlighting that oestrogen may regulate human uteroplacental blood flow in a tissue-specific manner.
Phosphorylation of heat shock protein 20 (Hsp20) by protein kinase A (PKA) is now recognized as an important regulatory mechanism modulating contractile activity in the human myometrium. Thus agonists that stimulate cyclic AMP production may cause relaxation with resultant beneficial effects on pathologies that affect this tissue such as the onset of premature contractions prior to term. Here we describe for the first time that acetylation of Hsp20 is also a potent post-translational modification that can affect human myometrial activity. We show that histone deacetylase 8 (HDAC8) is a non-nuclear lysine deacetylase (KDAC) that can interact with Hsp20 to affect its acetylation. Importantly, use of a selective linkerless hydroxamic acid HDAC8 inhibitor increases Hsp20 acetylation with no elevation of nuclear-resident histone acetylation nor marked global gene expression changes. These effects are associated with significant inhibition of spontaneous and oxytocin-augmented contractions of ex vivo human myometrial tissue strips. A potential molecular mechanism by which Hsp20 acetylation can affect myometrial activity by liberating cofilin is described and further high-lights the use of specific effectors of KDACs as therapeutic agents in regulating contractility in this smooth muscle.
Uterine contractions during labor are discretely regulated by rhythmic action potentials (AP) of varying duration and form that serve to determine calcium-dependent force production. We have employed a computational biology approach to develop a fuller understanding of the complexity of excitation-contraction (E-C) coupling of uterine smooth muscle cells (USMC). Our overall aim is to establish a mathematical platform of sufficient biophysical detail to quantitatively describe known uterine E-C coupling parameters and thereby inform future empirical investigations of physiological and pathophysiological mechanisms governing normal and dysfunctional labors. From published and unpublished data we construct mathematical models for fourteen ionic currents of USMCs: Ca2+ currents (L- and T-type), Na+ current, an hyperpolarization-activated current, three voltage-gated K+ currents, two Ca2+-activated K+ current, Ca2+-activated Cl current, non-specific cation current, Na+-Ca2+ exchanger, Na+-K+ pump and background current. The magnitudes and kinetics of each current system in a spindle shaped single cell with a specified surface area:volume ratio is described by differential equations, in terms of maximal conductances, electrochemical gradient, voltage-dependent activation/inactivation gating variables and temporal changes in intracellular Ca2+ computed from known Ca2+ fluxes. These quantifications are validated by the reconstruction of the individual experimental ionic currents obtained under voltage-clamp. Phasic contraction is modeled in relation to the time constant of changing [Ca2+]i. This integrated model is validated by its reconstruction of the different USMC AP configurations (spikes, plateau and bursts of spikes), the change from bursting to plateau type AP produced by estradiol and of simultaneous experimental recordings of spontaneous AP, [Ca2+]i and phasic force. In summary, our advanced mathematical model provides a powerful tool to investigate the physiological ionic mechanisms underlying the genesis of uterine electrical E-C coupling of labor and parturition. This will furnish the evolution of descriptive and predictive quantitative models of myometrial electrogenesis at the whole cell and tissue levels.
This study directly examined endothelial function of myometrial arteries in the uterus of women with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), healthy pregnant and non-pregnant women. It also examined whether endothelial function was affected by the changes in glucose concentration (from 2 to 12mmol/L) that is seen in poorly controlled diabetes.
Preterm birth remains the most serious complication of pregnancy and is associated with increased rates of infant death or permanent neurodevelopmental disability. Our understanding of the regulation of parturition remains inadequate. The scientific literature, largely derived from rodent animal models, suggests two major mechanisms regulating the timing of parturition: the withdrawal of the steroid hormone progesterone and a proinflammatory response by the immune system. However, available evidence strongly suggests that parturition in the human has significantly different regulators and mediators from those in most of the animal models. Our objectives are to critically review the data and concepts that have arisen from use of animal models for parturition and to rationalize the use of a new model. Many animal models have contributed to advances in our understanding of the regulation of parturition. However, we suggest that those animals dependent on progesterone withdrawal to initiate parturition clearly have a limitation to their translation to the human. In such models, a linear sequence of events (e.g., luteolysis, progesterone withdrawal, uterine activation, parturition) gives rise to the concept of a "trigger" mechanism. Conversely, we propose that human parturition may arise from the concomitant maturation of several systems in parallel. We have termed this novel concept "modular accumulation of physiological systems" (MAPS). We also emphasize the urgency to determine the precise role of the immune system in the process of parturition in situations other than intrauterine infection. Finally, we accentuate the need to develop a nonprimate animal model whose physiology is more relevant to human parturition. We suggest that the guinea pig displays several key physiological characteristics of gestation that more closely resemble human pregnancy than do currently favored animal models. We conclude that the application of novel concepts and new models are required to advance translational research in parturition.
An incomplete understanding of the molecular mechanisms responsible for myometrial activation from the quiescent pregnant state to the active contractile state during labor has hindered the development of effective therapies for preterm labor. Myometrial stretch has been implicated clinically in the initiation of labor and the etiology of preterm labor, but the molecular mechanisms involved in the human have not been determined. We investigated the mechanisms by which gestation-dependent stretch contributes to myometrial activation, by using human uterine samples from gynecologic hysterectomies and Cesarean sections. Here we demonstrate that the Ca requirement for activation of the contractile filaments in human myometrium increases with caldesmon protein content during gestation and that an increase in caldesmon phosphorylation can reverse this inhibitory effect during labor. By using phosphotyrosine screening and mass spectrometry of stretched human myometrial samples, we identify 3 stretch-activated focal adhesion proteins, FAK, p130Cas, and alpha actinin. FAK-Y397, which signals integrin engagement, is constitutively phosphorylated in term human myometrium whereas FAK-Y925, which signals downstream ERK activation, is phosphorylated during stretch. We have recently identified smooth muscle Archvillin (SmAV) as an ERK regulator. A newly produced SmAV-specific antibody demonstrates gestation-specific increases in SmAV protein levels and stretch-specific increases in SmAV association with focal adhesion proteins. Thus, whereas increases in caldesmon levels suppress human myometrium contractility during pregnancy, stretch-dependent focal adhesion signaling, facilitated by the ERK activator SmAV, can contribute to myometrial activation. These results suggest that focal adhesion proteins may present new targets for drug discovery programs aimed at regulation of uterine contractility.
The sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) of smooth muscle is crucial for appropriate regulation of Ca(2+) signalling. In visceral and vascular smooth muscles the SR is known to periodically lie in close register, within a few nanometres, to the plasma membrane. Recent work has focussed on reconstructions of the ultrastructural arrangement of this so-called peripheral SR that may be important for the genesis of phenomena such as Ca(2+) sparks. Here, we turn our attention to vascular smooth muscle and explore the 3-dimensional (3D) ultrastructural positioning of SR found deeper in the cell that is involved in the propagation of Ca(2+) waves. We use digital reconstruction and volume rendering of serial electron microscopic sections from isolated resistance arteries, pressurized in vitro to mimic cellular geometric conformations anticipated in vivo, to map SR positioning. We confirm that these central portions of SR are in close register with mitochondria and the nucleus with all three organelles tightly enveloped by a myofilament/cytoskeletal lattice. Nanospacings between the SR and individual mitochondria are visible and in three dimensions as the SR contorts to accommodate these organelles. Direct connection of the SR and nuclear membranes is confirmed. Such 3D positioning of centrally located SR further informs us of its likely role in the manifestation of spatiotemporal Ca(2+) dynamics: signal encoding may be facilitated by spatially directed release of Ca(2+) to influence several processes crucial to vascular smooth muscle and resistance artery function including myofilament activation by Ca(2+) waves, mitochondrial respiration and gene transcription.
It has been demonstrated previously that endothelium-dependent vasodilatation is impaired in myometrial arteries from women with gestational diabetes, which may play a role in mediating complications observed in diabetic pregnancies. It is not known which aspects of endothelium-dependent vasodilatation are impaired, thus a mouse model of pregnancy complicated by streptozotocin-induced diabetes was established to investigate underlying mechanisms. Uterine arteries from term-pregnant, diabetic and control C57Bl6/J mice were assessed using acetylcholine (ACh; 10(-10)-10(-5)M) in the presence or absence of a nitric oxide (NO) synthase inhibitor (L-NNA; 10(-5)M), a cyclooxygenase (COX) inhibitor (indomethacin; 10(-5)M) or the two in combination. Sensitivity to ACh was comparable between diabetic and control mice. However, the contribution of endothelium-dependent vasodilators was significantly altered. L-NNA significantly inhibited the relaxation of arteries from diabetic compared to control mice (65+/-11% vs 18+/-6%; p<.05). L-NNA and indomethacin significantly inhibited the relaxation of arteries from diabetic mice compared to control (87+/-5% vs 33+/-14%; p<0.05). These data indicate that endothelium-dependent relaxation of the uterine artery of control, pregnant mice was largely mediated by the non-NO/non-COX component. Surprisingly, arteries from diabetic mice were primarily dependent on NO, which may affect compensatory capacity as the disease progresses.
The relationships between the kinetochore and checkpoint control remain unresolved. Here, we report the characterization of the in vivo behavior of Cdc20 and Mad2 and the relevant spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC) functions in the neuroblasts of a Drosophila Mps1 weak allele (ald (B4-2) ). ald (B4-2) third instar larvae brain samples contain only around 16% endogenous Mps1 protein, and the SAC function is abolished. However, this does not lead to rapid anaphase onset and mitotic exit, in contrast to the loss of Mad2 alone in a mad2 (EY) mutant. The level of GFP-Cdc20 recruitment to the kinetochore is unaffected in ald (B4-2) neuroblasts, while the level of GFP-Mad2 is reduced to just about 20%. Cdc20 and Mad2 display only monophasic exponential kinetics at the kinetochores. The ald (B4-2) heterozygotes expressed approximately 65% of normal Mps1 protein levels, and this is enough to restore the SAC function. The kinetochore recruitment of GFP-Mad2 in response to SAC activation increases by around 80% in heterozygotes, compared with just about 20% in ald (B4-2) mutant. This suggests a correlation between Mps1 levels and Mad2 kinetochore localization and perhaps the existence of a threshold level at which Mps1 is fully functional. The failure to arrest the mitotic progression in ald (B4-2) neuroblasts in response to colchicine treatment suggests that when Mps1 levels are low, approximately 20% of normal GFP-Mad2, alongside normal levels of GFP-Cdc20 kinetochore recruitments, is insufficient for triggering SAC signal propagation.
Discrete regulation of the uterine and placental vasculatures is an important feature of uteroplacental perfusion and pregnancy success because appropriate maternal/fetal exchange of nutrients and gases is crucial for normal fetal growth. Placental vasculature lacks autonomic innervation so tone is controlled by locally derived vasoactive factors. IGF-I, which is produced by the placenta, is critical for normal fetal growth and studies of animal vascular systems have shown that IGF-I regulates vasomotor tone.
Endogenous uterine agonists can activate numerous signaling pathways to effect increased force. Our objective was to assess expression of key constituents of these pathways, in alliance with contractile function, through late gestation and during term and preterm labor.
Here we present the Transcription Factor Encyclopedia (TFe), a new web-based compendium of mini review articles on transcription factors (TFs) that is founded on the principles of open access and collaboration. Our consortium of over 100 researchers has collectively contributed over 130 mini review articles on pertinent human, mouse and rat TFs. Notable features of the TFe website include a high-quality PDF generator and web API for programmatic data retrieval. TFe aims to rapidly educate scientists about the TFs they encounter through the delivery of succinct summaries written and vetted by experts in the field. TFe is available at http://www.cisreg.ca/tfe.
Posttranslational modifications (PTMs) of proteins by phosphorylation are a well-established mechanism by which their activities can be regulated to affect cellular physiology. However, it is becoming increasingly evident that PTMs of proteins by acetylation of lysine residues is also a key effecter in regulating their functional abilities. The best characterized case of this is the epigenetic effects of histone acetyltransferases and deacetylases on gene expression via modulation of nuclear histone acetylation and chromatin remodeling. However, recent published evidence now strongly implicates an important role for nonhistone acetylation in regulating cellular function. In this review, we have considered the potential for regulating myometrial activity not only by epigenetic mechanisms but also by nonepigenetic protein acetylation processes that could directly affect the contractile machinery within these smooth muscle cells.
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