GPER1 is required to protect fetal health from maternal inflammation

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Science  15 Jan 2021:
Vol. 371, Issue 6526, pp. 271-276
DOI: 10.1126/science.aba9001

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GPER1 in utero to the rescue!

Several common pathogens, including influenza A virus (IAV), can activate systemic type I interferon (IFN) signaling during pregnancy. Such infections would be expected to cause birth defects and fetal mortality, but maternal IAV infections rarely produce such effects, suggesting the presence of a protective mechanism in fetal tissues. Harding et al. used a CRISPR screen to uncover IFN regulators that can mediate differential IFN control across tissues in human cell lines. They found that G protein–coupled estrogen receptor 1 (GPER1), which is expressed in fetal tissues, acts as a protective suppressor of IFN responses in the placenta during maternal infection. In a mouse model, pharmacological activation of GPER1 shielded fetuses from maternal inflammation. Activation of GPER1 might be promising therapeutically to protect the fetus from both maternal and fetal infections.

Science, this issue p. 271


Type I interferon (IFN) signaling in fetal tissues causes developmental abnormalities and fetal demise. Although pathogens that infect fetal tissues can induce birth defects through the local production of type I IFN, it remains unknown why systemic IFN generated during maternal infections only rarely causes fetal developmental defects. Here, we report that activation of the guanine nucleotide–binding protein–coupled estrogen receptor 1 (GPER1) during pregnancy is both necessary and sufficient to suppress IFN signaling and does so disproportionately in reproductive and fetal tissues. Inactivation of GPER1 in mice halted fetal development and promoted fetal demise, but only in the context of maternal inflammation. Thus, GPER1 is a central regulator of IFN signaling during pregnancy that allows dynamic antiviral responses in maternal tissues while also preserving fetal health.

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