Programmed fetal membrane senescence and exosome-mediated signaling: A mechanism associated with timing of human parturition

Ramkumar Menon, Sam Mesiano, Robert N. Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Human parturition is an inflammatory process that involves both fetal and maternal compartments. The precise immune cell interactions have not been well delineated in human uterine tissues during parturition, but insights into human labor initiation have been informed by studies in animal models. Unfortunately, the timing of parturition relative to fetal maturation varies among viviparous species-indicative of different phylogenetic clocks and alarms-but what is clear is that important common pathways must converge to control the birth process. Herein, we hypothesize a novel signaling mechanism initiated by human fetal membrane aging and senescence-associated inflammation. Programmed events of fetal membrane aging coincide with fetal growth and organ maturation. Mechanistically, senescence involves in telomere shortening and activation of p38 mitogen-activated signaling kinase resulting in aging-associated phenotypic transition. Senescent tissues release inflammatory signals that are propagated via exosomes to cause functional changes in maternal uterine tissues. In vitro, oxidative stress causes increased release of inflammatory mediators (senescence-associated secretory phenotype and damage-associated molecular pattern markers) that can be packaged inside the exosomes. These exosomes traverse through tissues layers, reach maternal tissues to increase overall inflammatory load transitioning them from a quiescent to active state. Animal model studies have shown that fetal exosomes can travel from fetal to the maternal side. Thus, aging fetal membranes and membrane-derived exosomes cargo fetal signals to the uterus and cervix and may trigger parturition. This review highlights a novel hypothesis in human parturition research based on data from ongoing research using human fetal membrane model system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number196
JournalFrontiers in Endocrinology
Issue numberAUG
StatePublished - Aug 17 2017


  • Aging
  • Biomarker
  • Exosomes
  • Fetal membranes
  • Fetal signals
  • Microvesicles
  • Parturition
  • p38MAPK

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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