Parturition is a well-orchestrated process characterized by increased uterine contractility, cervical ripening, and activation of the chorioamniotic membranes; yet, the transition from a quiescent to a contractile myometrium heralds the onset of labor. However, the cellular underpinnings of human parturition in the uterine tissues are still poorly understood. Herein, we performed a comprehensive study of the human myometrium during spontaneous term labor using single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-Seq). First, we established a single-cell atlas of the human myometrium and unraveled the cell type-specific transcriptomic activity modulated during labor. Major cell types included distinct subsets of smooth muscle cells, monocytes/macrophages, stromal cells, and endothelial cells, all of which communicated and participated in immune (e.g., inflammation) and nonimmune (e.g., contraction) processes associated with labor. Furthermore, integrating scRNA-Seq and microarray data with deconvolution of bulk gene expression highlighted the contribution of smooth muscle cells to labor-associated contractility and inflammatory processes. Last, myometrium-derived single-cell signatures can be quantified in the maternal whole-blood transcriptome throughout pregnancy and are enriched in women in labor, providing a potential means of noninvasively monitoring pregnancy and its complications. Together, our findings provide insights into the contributions of specific myometrial cell types to the biological processes that take place during term parturition.
ASJC Scopus subject areas