Notch signaling pathways exert effects throughout pregnancy and are activated in response to TLR ligands. To investigate the role of Notch signaling in preterm labor, Notch receptors (Notch1-4), its ligand Delta-like protein-1, transcriptional repressor hairy and enhancer of split-1, and Notch deregulator Numb were assessed. Preterm labor was initiated on gestation d 14.5 by 1 of 2 methods: 1) inflammation-induced preterm labor: intrauterine injection of LPS (a TLR4 agonist) and 2) hormonally induced preterm labor: subcutaneous injection of mifepristone. Delta-like protein-1, Notch1, and hairy and enhancer of split-1 were elevated significantly, and Numb was decreased in the uterus and placenta of inflammation-induced preterm labor mice but remained unchanged in hormonally induced preterm labor compared with their respective controls. F4/80(+) macrophage polarization was skewed in the uterus of inflammation-induced preterm labor toward M1-positive (CD11c(+)) and double-positive [CD11c(+) (M1) and CD206(+) (M2)] cells. This process is dependent on activation of Notch signaling, as shown by suppression of M1 and M2 macrophage-associated cytokines in decidual macrophages in response to γ-secretase inhibitor (an inhibitor of Notch receptor processing) treatment ex vivo. γ-Secretase inhibitor treatment also diminished the LPS-induced secretion of proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines in decidual and placental cells cultured ex vivo. Furthermore, treatment with recombinant Delta-like protein-1 ligand enhanced the LPS-induced proinflammatory response. Notch ligands (Jagged 1 and 2 and Delta-like protein-4) and vascular endothelial growth factor and its receptor involved in angiogenesis were reduced significantly in the uterus and placenta during inflammation-induced preterm labor. These results suggest that up-regulation of Notch-related inflammation and down-regulation of angiogenesis factors may be associated with inflammation-induced preterm labor but not with hormonally induced preterm labor.
Keywords: DLL-1 ligand; angiogenesis; inflammation; macrophage polarization; mifepristone.
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