Constitutive activation of transforming growth factor Beta receptor 1 in the mouse uterus impairs uterine morphology and function.
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Despite increasing evidence pointing to the essential involvement of the transforming growth factor beta (TGFB) superfamily in reproduction, a definitive role of TGFB signaling in the uterus remains to be unveiled. In this study, we generated a gain-of-function mouse model harboring a constitutively active (CA) TGFB receptor 1 (TGFBR1), the expression of which was conditionally induced by the progesterone receptor (Pgr)-Cre recombinase. Overactivation of TGFB signaling was verified by enhanced phosphorylation of SMAD2 and increased expression of TGFB target genes in the uterus. TGFBR1 Pgr-Cre CA mice were sterile. Histological, cellular, and molecular analyses demonstrated that constitutive activation of TGFBR1 in the mouse uterus promoted formation of hypermuscled uteri. Accompanying this phenotype was the upregulation of a battery of smooth muscle genes in the uterus. Furthermore, TGFB ligands activated SMAD2/3 and stimulated the expression of a smooth muscle maker gene, alpha smooth muscle actin (ACTA2), in human uterine smooth muscle cells. Immunofluorescence microscopy identified a marked reduction of uterine glands in TGFBR1 Pgr-Cre CA mice within the endometrial compartment that contained myofibroblast-like cells. Thus, constitutive activation of TGFBR1 in the mouse uterus caused defects in uterine morphology and function, as evidenced by abnormal myometrial structure, dramatically reduced uterine glands, and impaired uterine decidualization. These results underscore the importance of a precisely controlled TGFB signaling system in establishing a uterine microenvironment conducive to normal development and function.