Fetal growth restriction (FGR) affects up to 5% of pregnancies and is associated with significant perinatal complications. Maternal deficiency of vitamin D, a secosteroid hormone, is common in FGR-affected pregnancies. We recently demonstrated that decreased expression of the vitamin D receptor (VDR) in idiopathic FGR placentae could impair trophoblast growth. As strict regulation of cell-cycle genes in trophoblast cells is critical for optimal feto-placental growth, we hypothesised that pathologically decreased placental VDR contributes to aberrant regulation of cell-cycle genes. The study aims were to (i) identify the downstream cell-cycle regulatory genes of VDR in trophoblast cells, and (ii) determine if expression was changed in cases of FGR. Targeted cell-cycle gene cDNA arrays were used to screen for downstream targets of VDR in VDR siRNA-transfected BeWo and HTR-8/SVneo trophoblast-derived cell lines, and in third trimester placentae from FGR and gestation-matched control pregnancies (n = 25 each). The six candidate genes identified were CDKN2A, CDKN2D, HDAC4, HDAC6, TGFB2 and TGFB3. TGFB3 was prioritised for further validation, as its expression is largely unknown in FGR. Significantly reduced mRNA and protein expression of TGFB3 was verified in FGR placentae and the BeWo and HTR-8/SVneo trophoblast cell lines, using real-time PCR and immunoblotting respectively. In summary, decreased placental VDR expression alters the expression of regulatory cell-cycle genes in FGR placentae. Aberrant regulation of cell-cycle genes in the placental trophoblast cells may constitute a mechanistic pathway by which decreased placental VDR reduces feto-placental growth.
- cell-cycle regulation
- idiopathic fetal growth restriction
- Vitamin D receptor