Uterine dysfunction in biglycan and decorin deficient mice leads to dystocia during parturition

PLoS One. 2012;7(1):e29627. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0029627. Epub 2012 Jan 13.


Cesarean birth rates are rising. Uterine dysfunction, the exact mechanism of which is unknown, is a common indication for Cesarean delivery. Biglycan and decorin are two small leucine-rich proteoglycans expressed in the extracellular matrix of reproductive tissues and muscle. Mice deficient in biglycan display a mild muscular dystrophy, and, along with mice deficient in decorin, are models of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue anomaly associated with uterine rupture. As a variant of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is caused by a genetic mutation resulting in abnormal biglycan and decorin secretion, we hypothesized that biglycan and decorin play a role in uterine function. Thus, we assessed wild-type, biglycan, decorin and double knockout pregnancies for timing of birth and uterine function. Uteri were harvested at embryonic days 12, 15 and 18. Nonpregnant uterine samples of the same genotypes were assessed for tissue failure rate and spontaneous and oxytocin-induced contractility. We discovered that biglycan/decorin mixed double-knockout dams displayed dystocia, were at increased risk of delayed labor onset, and showed increased tissue failure in a predominantly decorin-dependent manner. In vitro spontaneous uterine contractile amplitude and oxytocin-induced contractile force were decreased in all biglycan and decorin knockout genotypes compared to wild-type. Notably, we found no significant compensation between biglycan and decorin using quantitative real time PCR or immunohistochemistry. We conclude that the biglycan/decorin mixed double knockout mouse is a model of dystocia and delayed labor onset. Moreover, decorin is necessary for uterine function in a dose-dependent manner, while biglycan exhibits partial compensatory mechanisms in vivo. Thus, this model is poised for use as a model for testing novel targets for preventive or therapeutic manipulation of uterine dysfunction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Biglycan / deficiency*
  • Biglycan / metabolism
  • Biomechanical Phenomena / drug effects
  • Decorin / deficiency*
  • Decorin / metabolism
  • Dystocia / pathology
  • Dystocia / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C3H
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Oxytocin / pharmacology
  • Parturition / drug effects
  • Parturition / physiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism
  • Uterine Contraction / drug effects
  • Uterine Contraction / physiology
  • Uterus / drug effects
  • Uterus / pathology
  • Uterus / physiopathology*


  • Biglycan
  • Decorin
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Oxytocin