Early pregnancy loss affects ∼15% of all implantation-confirmed human conceptions. However, evolutionarily conserved molecular mechanisms that regulate self-renewal of trophoblast progenitors and their association with early pregnancy loss are poorly understood. Here, we provide evidence that transcription factor TEAD4 ensures survival of postimplantation mouse and human embryos by controlling self-renewal and stemness of trophoblast progenitors within the placenta primordium. In an early postimplantation mouse embryo, TEAD4 is selectively expressed in trophoblast stem cell-like progenitor cells (TSPCs), and loss of Tead4 in postimplantation mouse TSPCs impairs their self-renewal, leading to embryonic lethality before embryonic day 9.0, a developmental stage equivalent to the first trimester of human gestation. Both TEAD4 and its cofactor, yes-associated protein 1 (YAP1), are specifically expressed in cytotrophoblast (CTB) progenitors of a first-trimester human placenta. We also show that a subset of unexplained recurrent pregnancy losses (idiopathic RPLs) is associated with impaired TEAD4 expression in CTB progenitors. Furthermore, by establishing idiopathic RPL patient-specific human trophoblast stem cells (RPL-TSCs), we show that loss of TEAD4 is associated with defective self-renewal in RPL-TSCs and rescue of TEAD4 expression restores their self-renewal ability. Unbiased genomics studies revealed that TEAD4 directly regulates expression of key cell cycle genes in both mouse and human TSCs and establishes a conserved transcriptional program. Our findings show that TEAD4, an effector of the Hippo signaling pathway, is essential for the establishment of pregnancy in a postimplantation mammalian embryo and indicate that impairment of the Hippo signaling pathway could be a molecular cause for early human pregnancy loss.
Keywords: Hippo signaling; TEAD4; placenta; recurrent pregnancy loss; trophoblast progenitor.