The transcriptomic evolution of mammalian pregnancy: gene expression innovations in endometrial stromal fibroblasts

Koryu Kin, Jamie Maziarz, Arun R. Chavan, Manasi Kamat, Sreelakshmi Vasudevan, Alyssa Birt, Deena Emera, Vincent J. Lynch, Troy L. Ott, Mihaela Pavlicev, Günter P. Wagner (Lead / Corresponding author)

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    The endometrial stromal fibroblast (ESF) is a cell type present in the uterine lining of therian mammals. In the stem lineage of eutherian mammals, ESF acquired the ability to differentiate into decidual cells in order to allow embryo implantation. We call the latter cell type “neo-ESF” in contrast to “paleo-ESF” which is homologous to eutherian ESF but is not able to decidualize. In this study, we compare the transcriptomes of ESF from six therian species: Opossum (Monodelphis domestica; paleo-ESF), mink, rat, rabbit, human (all neo-ESF), and cow (secondarily nondecidualizing neo-ESF). We find evidence for strong stabilizing selection on transcriptome composition suggesting that the expression of approximately 5,600 genes is maintained by natural selection. The evolution of neo-ESF from paleo-ESF involved the following gene expression changes: Loss of expression of genes related to inflammation and immune response, lower expression of genes opposing tissue invasion, increased markers for proliferation as well as the recruitment of FOXM1, a key gene transiently expressed during decidualization. Signaling pathways also evolve rapidly and continue to evolve within eutherian lineages. In the bovine lineage, where invasiveness and decidualization were secondarily lost, we see a re-expression of genes found in opossum, most prominently WISP2, and a loss of gene expression related to angiogenesis. The data from this and previous studies support a scenario, where the proinflammatory paleo-ESF was reprogrammed to express anti-inflammatory genes in response to the inflammatory stimulus coming from the implanting conceptus and thus paving the way for extended, trans-cyclic gestation.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2459-2473
    Number of pages15
    JournalGenome Biology and Evolution
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2016


    • Cell type evolution
    • Endometrial stromal cells
    • Eutheria
    • Marsupialia
    • Transcriptome evolution

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
    • Genetics


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