Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors: Providing New Insights and Therapeutic Avenues for Unlocking Human Birth

Reprod Sci. 2021 Oct 28. doi: 10.1007/s43032-021-00778-x. Online ahead of print.


The pregnant uterus remains relaxed throughout fetal gestation before transforming to a contractile phenotype at term to facilitate birth. Despite ongoing progress, the precise mechanisms that regulate this phenotypic transformation are not yet understood. This knowledge gap limits our understanding of how dysregulation of uterine smooth muscle biology contributes to life-threatening obstetric complications, including preterm birth, and hampers our ability to develop effective therapeutic intervention strategies. Protein acetylation plays a vital role in regulating protein structure, function, and subcellular localization, as well as gene transcription availability through regulating chromatin condensation. Histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACis) are a class of compounds that block the removal of acetyl functional groups from proteins and, as such, have profound effects on important cellular events, including phenotypic transformation. A large body of data now demonstrates that HDACis have profound effects on pregnant human myometrium. Studies to date show that HDACis operate through both genomic and non-genomic mechanisms to affect myometrial function and phenotype. Interestingly, the effects of HDACis on pregnant myometrium are largely "pro-relaxation," including the direct inhibition of contractile machinery as well as repression of pro-labor genes. The "dual action" effects of HDACis make them a powerful tool for unlocking the regulatory processes that underpin myometrial phenotypic transformation and raises prospects of their therapeutic applications. Here, we review the new insights into human myometrial biology that have garnered through the application of HDACis and explore their potential therapeutic application toward the development of novel preterm birth prevention strategies.

Keywords: Epigenetics; Histone deacetylase; Histone deacetylase inhibitors; Parturition; Progesterone; Trichostatin A.

Publication types

  • Review