Epithelial-stromal interactions in the uterus are required for normal uterine functions such as pregnancy, and multiple signaling pathways are essential for this process. Although Dicer and microRNA (miRNA) have been implicated in several reproductive processes, the specific roles of Dicer and miRNA in uterine development are not known. To address the roles of miRNA in the regulation of key uterine pathways, we generated a conditional knockout of Dicer in the postnatal uterine epithelium and stroma using progesterone receptor-Cre. These Dicer conditional knockout females are sterile with small uteri, which demonstrate significant defects, including absence of glandular epithelium and enhanced stromal apoptosis, beginning at approximately postnatal d 15, with coincident expression of Cre and deletion of Dicer. Specific miRNA (miR-181c, -200b, -101, let-7d) were down-regulated and corresponding predicted proapoptotic target genes (Bcl2l11, Aldh1a3) were up-regulated, reflecting the apoptotic phenomenon. Although these mice had normal serum hormone levels, critical uterine signaling pathways, including progesterone-responsive genes, Indian hedgehog signaling, and the Wnt/β-catenin canonical pathway, were dysregulated at the mRNA level. Importantly, uterine stromal cell proliferation in response to progesterone was absent, whereas uterine epithelial cell proliferation in response to estradiol was maintained in adult uteri. These data implicate Dicer and appropriate miRNA expression as essential players in the regulation of multiple uterine signaling pathways required for uterine development and appropriate function.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology