Introduction: The timing of parturition at end of human gestation may be controlled by fetal signals. The signaling molecules contributing to activation of human labor may be mediated by fetal exosomes. In this study, we focused on investigation of the role of microRNAs (miRNAs) derived from fetal exosomes in the regulation of human placental gene expression. Methods: Using immunofluorescent labeling, array-based miRNA profiling assay, target prediction analysis, and conducting a variety of biochemical approaches including miRNA mimics, dual-luciferase, siRNA-mediated gene silencing, and immunohistochemical staining assay in primary trophoblast culture and formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded placental tissues, we examined whether fetal exosomal miRNAs can stimulate expression of proinflammatory mediators in human placenta. Results: We showed placental uptake of exosomes derived from the umbilical artery, and found that 9 fetal exosomal miRNAs: let-7i-5p, miR-185-5p, miR-15b-5p, miR-376c-3p, miR-548d-5p, miR-92b-3p, miR-16-5p, and miR-1301-3p were significantly increased in placentas of women delivering following term labor compared to those delivering by Cesarean section in the late preterm period. Target prediction analysis identified miR-15b-5p of particular interest, because one of its predicted targets is Apelin, a potent inhibitor of proinflammatory mediators. We further found that miR-15b-5p repressed Apelin protein levels and activated pro-labor hormones and cytokines including IL-1, IL-6, IL-8, and TNF-α. Discussion: These data suggest a potential fetal-to-placental signal that could play a role in the length of human gestation and onset of human labor.
- Human placenta