The onset of the term human parturition involves myometrial gene expression changes to transform the uterus from a quiescent to a contractile phenotype. It is uncertain whether the same changes occur in the uterus during preterm labor.
This study aimed to compare the myometrial gene expression between term and preterm labor and to determine whether the presence of acute clinical chorioamnionitis or twin gestation affects these signatures.
Myometrial specimens were collected during cesarean delivery from the following 7 different groups of patients: term not in labor (n=31), term labor (n=13), preterm not in labor (n=21), preterm labor with acute clinical chorioamnionitis (n=6), preterm labor with no acute clinical chorioamnionitis (n=9), twin preterm not in labor (n=8), and twin preterm labor with no acute clinical chorioamnionitis (n=5). RNA was extracted, reverse transcribed and quantitative polymerase chain reactions were performed on 44 candidate genes (with evidence for differential expression in human term labor) using the Fluidigm platform. Computational analysis was performed using 2-class unpaired Wilcoxon tests and principal component analysis.
Computational analysis revealed that gene expression in the preterm myometrium, irrespective of whether in labor or not in labor, clustered tightly and is clearly different from the term labor and term not-in-labor groups. This was true for both singleton and twin pregnancies. Principal component analysis showed that 57% of the variation was explained by 3 principal components. These 44 genes interact in themes of prostaglandin activity and inflammatory signaling known to be important during term labor, but are not a full representation of the myometrium transcriptional activity.
The myometrial contractions associated with preterm labor are associated with a pattern of gene expression that is distinct from term labor. Therefore, preterm labor may be initiated by a different myometrial process or processes outside the myometrium.