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Evolutionary transcriptomics implicates new genes and pathways in human pregnancy and adverse pregnancy outcomes

By Katelyn Mika, Mirna Marinic, Manvendra Singh, Vincent J Lynch

Posted 20 Apr 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.04.19.440514

Evolutionary changes in the anatomy and physiology of the female reproductive system underlie the origins and diversification of pregnancy in Eutherian (Placental) mammals. This developmental and evolutionary history constrains normal physiological functions and biases the ways in which dysfunction contributes to reproductive trait diseases and adverse pregnancy outcomes. Here, we show that gene expression changes in the human endometrium during pregnancy are associated with the evolution of human-specific traits and pathologies of pregnancy. We found that hundreds of genes gained or lost endometrial expression in the human lineage. Among these are genes that may contribute to human-specific maternal-fetal communication (HTR2B) and maternal-fetal immunotolerance (PDCD1LG2) systems, as well as vascular remodeling and deep placental invasion (CORIN). These data suggest that explicit evolutionary studies of anatomical systems complement traditional methods for characterizing the genetic architecture of disease. We also anticipate our results will advance the emerging synthesis of evolution and medicine (evolutionary medicine) and be a starting point for more sophisticated studies of the maternal-fetal interface. Furthermore, the gene expression changes we identified may contribute to the development of diagnostics and interventions for adverse pregnancy outcomes.

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