Myometrial Apoptosis: Activation of the Caspase Cascade in the Pregnant Rat Myometrium at Midgestation

O. Shynlova, A. Oldenhof, A. Dorogin, Q. Xu, J. Mu, N. Nasham, Stephen Lye

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    In the present study, we determined the contribution of myometrial hyperplasia, hypertrophy, and apoptosis to uterine growth during pregnancy. The changes in two endogenous markers of cell replication, proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) protein expression and bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) incorporation, were studied. Myocyte hypertrophy was assessed by measuring the protein:DNA ratio. The expression levels of antiapoptotic regulatory proteins (BCL2 and BCL2L1) and enzymes involved in apoptosis (caspases 3, 6, 7, 9, and 10) were assessed by immunoblotting throughout gestation and postpartum. Myometrial cell apoptosis was determined by TUNEL staining and DNA fragmentation assays. Both BrdU incorporation and PCNA labeling were elevated in early pregnant myometrium and decreased dramatically after midgestation, with a simultaneous increase in cellular hypertrophy. Levels of BCL2 were high during early gestation, followed by significantly elevated levels of BCL2L1 at midgestation. The expression of caspase 10 in myometrial samples declined from a high nonpregnant level to a complete loss at early gestation. The cleaved forms of caspases (CC) 3, 6, 7, and 9, as well as poly(ADP-ribose)polymerase-1, were undetectable in the myometrial samples at early or late gestation but were transiently elevated at midgestation. Immunohistochemical staining of CC3 confirmed the activation of the caspase cascade, but TUNEL-positive staining or the increase in DNA fragmentation was not detected. Collectively, two distinct phases of myometrial growth were observed: myocyte hyperplasia associated with an increase in antiapoptotic proteins during the first half of gestation, and cellular hypertrophy during the second part of gestation. The transition between these phases was associated with transient activation of the caspase cascade that triggered the differentiation of uterine smooth muscle.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)839-849
    JournalBiology of Reproduction
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 2006

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