Deregulation of miR-324/KISS1/kisspeptin in early ectopic pregnancy: mechanistic findings with clinical and diagnostic implications

Published:January 29, 2019DOI:


      Ectopic pregnancy is a life-threatening condition for which novel screening tools that would enable early accurate diagnosis would improve clinical outcomes. Kisspeptins, encoded by KISS1, play an essential role in human reproduction, at least partially by regulating placental function and possibly embryo implantation. Kisspeptin levels are elevated massively in normal pregnancy and reportedly altered in various gestational pathologic diseases. Yet, the pathophysiologic role of KISS1/kisspeptin in ectopic pregnancy has not been investigated previously.


      The purpose of this study was to evaluate changes of KISS1/kisspeptin levels in ectopic pregnancy and their underlaying molecular mechanisms and to ascertain the diagnostic implications of these changes.

      Study Design

      A total of 122 women with normal pregnancy who underwent voluntary termination of pregnancy and 84 patients who experienced tubal ectopic pregnancy were recruited. Measurements of plasma kisspeptins and KISS1 expression analyses in human embryonic/placental tissue were conducted in ectopic pregnancy and voluntary termination of pregnancy control subjects during the early gestational window (<12 weeks). Putative microRNA regulators of KISS1 were predicted in silico, followed by expression analyses of selected microRNAs and validation of repressive interactions in vitro. Circulating levels of these microRNAs were also assayed in ectopic pregnancy vs voluntary termination of pregnancy.


      Circulating kisspeptins gradually increased during the first trimester of normal pregnancy but were reduced markedly in ectopic pregnancy. This profile correlated with the expression levels of KISS1 in human embryonic/placental tissue, which increased in voluntary termination of pregnancy but remained suppressed in ectopic pregnancy. Bioinformatic predictions and expression analyses identified miR-27b-3p and miR-324-3p as putative repressors of KISS1 in human embryonic/placental tissue at <12 weeks gestation, when expression of microRNAs was low in voluntary termination of pregnancy control subjects but significantly increased in ectopic pregnancy. Yet, a significant repressive interaction was documented only for miR-324-3p, occurring at the predicted 3’-UTR of KISS1. Interestingly, circulating levels of miR-324-3p, but not of miR-27b-3p, were suppressed distinctly in ectopic pregnancy, despite elevated tissue expression of the pre-microRNA. A decision-tree model that used kisspeptin and miR-324-3p levels was successful in discriminating ectopic pregnancy vs voluntary termination of pregnancy, with a receiver-operating characteristic area under the curve of 0.95±0.02 (95% confidence interval).


      Our results document a significant down-regulation of KISS1/kisspeptins in early stages of ectopic pregnancy via, at least partially, a repressive interaction with miR-324-3p. Our data identify circulating kisspeptins and miR-324-3p as putative biomarkers for accurate screening of ectopic pregnancy at early gestational ages.

      Key words

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