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ATOH8 Expression is Regulated by BMP2 and Plays a Key Role in Human Endometrial Stromal Cell Decidualization.

Endocrinology 2023 December 8
During the secretory phase of the menstrual cycle, elongated fibroblast-like mesenchymal cells in the uterine endometrium begin to trans-differentiate into polygonal epithelioid-like (decidual) cells. This decidualization process continues more broadly during early pregnancy, and the resulting decidual tissue supports successful embryo implantation and placental development. This study was carried out to determine if atonal basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor 8 (ATOH8) plays a role in human endometrial stromal fibroblast (ESF) decidualization. ATOH8 mRNA and protein expression levels significantly increased in human ESF cells undergoing in vitro decidualization, with the protein primarily localized to the nucleus. When ATOH8 expression was silenced, the ability of the cells to undergo decidualization was significantly diminished. Overexpression of ATOH8 enhanced the expression of many decidualization markers. Silencing the expression of ATOH8 reduced the expression of FZD4, FOXO1, and several known FOXO1 downstream targets during human ESF cell decidualization. Therefore, ATOH8 may be a major upstream regulator of the WNT/FZD-FOXO1 pathway, previously shown to be critical for human endometrial decidualization. Finally, we explored possible regulators of ATOH8 expression during human ESF decidualization. BMP2 significantly enhanced ATOH8 expression when cells were stimulated to undergo decidualization, while an ALK2/3 inhibitor reduced ATOH8 expression. Finally, although the steroids progesterone plus estradiol did not affect ATOH8 expression, the addition of cAMP analog alone represented the major effect of ATOH8 expression when cells were stimulated to undergo decidualization. Our results suggest that ATOH8 plays a crucial role in human ESF decidualization and that BMP2 plus cAMP are major regulators of ATOH8 expression.

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