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J Physiol. 2003 Oct 15;552(Pt 2):403-13.

Modulation of RhoA-Rho kinase-mediated Ca2+ sensitization of rabbit myometrium during pregnancy - role of Rnd3.

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  • 1INSERM U-533, Faculté des Sciences, 44322 Nantes, France.


During pregnancy, the uterus undergoes major functional and structural remodelling. It is well known that during the major part of pregnancy, the myometrium normally remains relatively quiescent but is able to generate powerful contractions at the time of parturition. However, the intracellular molecular events regulating myometrial contractility during pregnancy still remain poorly understood. We applied differential gene expression screening using cDNA array technology to probe myometrium samples from non-pregnant and mid-pregnant (15 days) rabbits. Among the differentially expressed genes, the farnesylated small G-protein of the Rho family, Rnd3, was found to be upregulated (3.6-fold) at mid-pregnancy. Upregulation of Rnd3 was confirmed at the protein level by a 3.4-fold increase in Rnd3 expression in mid-pregnant myometrium. Measurements of contractile properties of beta-escin permeabilized smooth muscle strips revealed that the upregulation of Rnd3 correlated with an inhibition of RhoA-Rho kinase-mediated Ca2+ sensitization at mid-pregnancy. Treatment of muscle strips from mid-pregnant myometrium with the farnesyl-transferase inhibitor manumycin A (10 muM) led to the recovery of RhoA-Rho kinase-dependent Ca2+ sensitization. At late pregnancy (31 days), upregulation of RhoA and Rho kinase expression was associated with an increase in Ca2+ sensitivity of contractile proteins that was inhibited by the Rho kinase inhibitor Y-27632 (10 muM). These data thus demonstrate the time-dependent regulation of the RhoA-Rho kinase-mediated Ca2+ sensitization during the course of pregnancy. The depression of this mechanism at mid-pregnancy followed by its constitutive activation near term is associated with a co-ordinated modulation of Rnd3, RhoA and Rho kinase expression. The RhoA-Rho kinase signalling pathway and its regulators might thus represent potential targets for the development of new treatments for pre-term labour.

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