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Bingbing Wang, Mayra Cruz Ithier, Nataliya Parobchak, Stacy M Yadava, Jay Schulkin and Todd Rosen

Maternal vitamin D deficiency is linked to adverse pregnancy outcomes including spontaneous preterm birth (SPB). Placental corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) has been proposed to be part of a clock that governs the length of gestation in humans, with elevated maternal serum levels predicting early delivery. In this study, we test the hypothesis that vitamin D could contribute to the prevention of preterm labor by inhibiting CRH and other pro-labor mediators. The biological activity of vitamin D occurs via two pathways: non-genomic and genomic responses, both of which involve binding of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (1,25(OH)2D), the active metabolite of vitamin D binding to the vitamin D receptor (VDR). By using chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by sequencing (ChIP-seq), we found that 1,25(OH)2D stimulates association of VDR with a number of miRNA genes including MIR181B2 and MIR26B, and their mature products miR-181b-5p and miR-26b-5p are predicted to target CRH and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) mRNA at 3′-untranslated region (UTR), respectively. We performed RT-qPCR analysis to validate that expression of mature miR-181b-5p and miR-26b-5p in term human syncytiotrophoblast increased in response to treatment with 1,25(OH)2D. miR-181b-5p- or miR-26b-5p-mediated inhibition of CRH or COX-2 was further assessed by the use of miRNA mimics/inhibitors and a luciferase reporter assay. Taken together, this study has identified novel mechanisms by which vitamin D downregulates pro-labor genes and could lower the risk of preterm delivery.