The human decidua plays a prominent role in the signaling between maternal and fetal tissues. It also secretes a plethora of molecules that modulate uterine function. Ion-channel activity underpins many cellular functions; however, the channels in human decidua have not been characterized in any detail. We have used the whole-cell recording mode of the patch-clamp technique to carry out current-clamp and voltage-clamp recordings of membrane properties and whole-cell potassium (K ) currents of freshly isolated decidual stromal cells. Decidual tissue was obtained from women after spontaneous vaginal delivery (SVD) or elective cesarean section (CS). Cells from both groups generated action potentials, the overshoots and durations of which were dependent on extracellular calcium levels, inhibited by cobalt and enhanced by barium. Potassium current (IK) density was higher in the CS than in the SVD group. Outwardly directed currents were heterogeneous with respect to their activation/inactivation profiles and exhibited outward rectification. The main difference between the SVD and CS group was the presence of a sustained current component in CS cells that is tetraethylammonium chloride-resistant and appears to be unaffected by E-4031. No evidence for the activation of any calcium-activated K currents was obtained. We propose that human parturition is associated with subtle changes in K channel remodeling, reflecting the transition from uterine quiescence to activation and stimulation. An understanding of the signal transduction events underlying these process may eventually lead to novel approaches to prevent preterm labor via decidual rather than myometrial intervention.
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