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J Pathol. 2009 Jan;217(1):113-21. doi: 10.1002/path.2463.

Expression patterns of microRNAs in the chorioamniotic membranes: a role for microRNAs in human pregnancy and parturition.

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Perinatology Research Branch, NICHD/NIH/DHHS, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are involved in the post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression during development. This study was performed to determine gestational age-dependent changes in miRNA expression in the chorioamniotic membranes and to assess the significance of miRNAs in human pregnancy and parturition. The expression profile of 455 miRNAs was compared between patients at term without labour (TNL: n = 10), in labour (TL: n = 10), and preterm labour (PTL: n = 10) using microarrays. A total of 39 miRNAs were differentially expressed between term and preterm cases, of which 31 (79.5%) were down-regulated at term. Expression of ten miRNAs, including miR-338, differentially expressed between PTL and TL groups was decreased at term. Computational analyses using miRBase Targets have identified PLA2G4B, a phospholipase implicated in parturition, as a putative target of miR-338. Inhibition of endogenous miR-338 with anti-miR-338 increased the mRNA and protein expression of PLA2G4B in decidual cells. Luciferase assay with reporter constructs confirmed that the suppression of PLA2G4B occurs through binding of miR-338 to the 3UTR of PLA2G4B. Interestingly, the expression of Dicer, a key miRNA-processing enzyme, was markedly decreased at term, particularly with labour in the chorioamniotic membranes. Collectively, the novel findings reported herein strongly suggest that post-transcriptional regulation of genes by miRNAs, coupled with the changes of miRNA processing machinery in the chorioamniotic membranes, plays a role in pregnancy and parturition. Furthermore, the expression level of Dicer in the chorioamniotic membranes dichotomizes pathological preterm labour and physiological spontaneous labour at term.

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