Int J Biol Sci 2017; 13(4):434-448. doi:10.7150/ijbs.18278 This issue

Research Paper

Estradiol Suppresses TLR4-triggered Apoptosis of Decidual Stromal Cells and Drives an Anti-inflammatory TH2 Shift by Activating SGK1

Yiyun Lou1, 2*, Minhao Hu1*, Qijing Wang1*, Mu Yuan1*, Ning Wang1, Fang Le1, Lejun Li1, Shisi Huang1, Liya Wang1, Xiangrong Xu1, Fan Jin1✉

1. Department of Reproductive Endocrinology, Key Laboratory of Reproductive Genetics, Ministry of Education, Key Laboratory of Women's Reproductive Health of Zhejiang Province, Women's Hospital, School of Medicine, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310006, China.
2. Department of Gynaecology, Hangzhou Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Hangzhou, 310007, China.
* These authors contributed equally to this work.

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Lou Y, Hu M, Wang Q, Yuan M, Wang N, Le F, Li L, Huang S, Wang L, Xu X, Jin F. Estradiol Suppresses TLR4-triggered Apoptosis of Decidual Stromal Cells and Drives an Anti-inflammatory TH2 Shift by Activating SGK1. Int J Biol Sci 2017; 13(4):434-448. doi:10.7150/ijbs.18278. Available from

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Graphic abstract

A pro-inflammatory cytokine profile at the feto-maternal interface may predispose immune maladaptation notably in early miscarriages. We investigated the involvement of estradiol (E2)-activated serum-glucocorticoid regulated kinase 1 (SGK1) in preserving the tolerogenic and pro-survival intrauterine microenvironment beneficial to gestation maintenance. Decidual SGK1 was down-regulated in early miscarriage, consistent with the lower serum E2 concentration seen in pregnancy loss. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS)/Toll-like receptors 4 (TLR4) signaling induced apoptosis and the pro-inflammatory T helper type (TH) 1 response of decidual stromal cells (DSCs) were associated with miscarriage. SGK1 activation was suppressed by LPS/TLR4 signaling and would be rescued by E2 administration via the PI3K signaling pathway in DSCs. SGK1 activation attenuated TLR4-mediated cell apoptosis, while promoting cell viability of DSCs by up-regulating the pro-survival genes BCL2 and XIAP, and enhancing the phosphorylation of FOXO1. Furthermore, E2-induced SGK1 activation reduced the secretion of pro-inflammatory TH1 cytokines, and promoted the generation of TH2 cytokines and elevated IRF4 mRNA and protein levels in LPS-incubated DSCs. Pharmacologic inhibition of SGK1 or suppression by small interfering (si) RNA increased the phosphorylation and nuclear translocation of NF-κB to reverse the pro-TH2 and anti-inflammatory effects of E2 pretreatment, leading to compromised pregnancy. These findings suggest that the E2-mediated SGK1 activation suppressed LPS-mediated apoptosis and promoted the anti-inflammatory TH2 responses in DSCs, ultimately contributing to a successful pregnancy.

Keywords: miscarriage, SGK1, E2, DSCs, inflammation, apoptosis, TH2 cytokine