Inflammation, but not infection, induces EMT in human amnion epithelial cells

Mariana de Castro Silva, Lauren S. Richardson, Talar Kechichian, Rheanna Urrabaz-Garza, Márcia Guimarães da Silva, Ramkumar Menon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


A non-reversible state of epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) at term accumulates proinflammatory mesenchymal cells and predisposes fetal membrane to weakening prior to delivery at term. We investigated the induction of EMT in amnion epithelial cells (AEC) in response to inflammation and infection associated with spontaneous preterm birth (SPTB). For this, membranes from SPTB were screened for EMT markers. Primary AEC in culture were treated with TNF-α (10 and 50 ng/mL) and LPS (50 and 100 ng/mL) for 72 h. Cell shape index (SI) was determined based on morphological shift (microscopy followed by ImageJ software analysis). Immunocytochemistry and Western blot assessed changes in epithelial markers (cytokeratin-18 and E-cadherin) and mesenchymal markers (vimentin and N-cadherin). Involvement of transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β) in EMT induction and EMT associated inflammation was tested using specific markers (Western blot) and by measuring MMP9 (ELISA), respectively. We report that PTB is associated with fetal membrane EMT. TNF-α produced dose- and time-dependent induction of EMT; within 24 h by 50 ng/mL and after 72 h by 10 ng/mL. AEC showed mesenchymal morphology, lower E-cadherin, higher vimentin and N-cadherin and higher MMP9 compared to control. TNF-α-induced EMT was not associated with canonical TGF-β pathway. LPS, regardless of dose or time, did not induce EMT in AEC. We conclude that PTB with intact membranes is associated with EMT. Our data suggest that inflammation, but not infection, is associated with non-canonical activation of EMT and inflammation that can predispose membrane to undergo weakening.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)627-638
Number of pages12
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Cell Biology
  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Embryology


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