The onset of labour is a culmination of a series of highly coordinated and preparatory physiological events that take place throughout the gestational period. In order to produce the associated contractions needed for fetal delivery, smooth muscle cells in the muscular layer of the uterus (i.e. myometrium) undergo a transition from quiescent to contractile phenotypes. Here, we present the current understanding of the roles transcription factors play in critical labour-associated gene expression changes as part of the molecular mechanistic basis for this transition. Consideration is given to both transcription factors that have been well-studied in a myometrial context, i.e. activator protein 1 (AP-1), progesterone receptors (PRs), estrogen receptors (ERs), and nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB), as well as additional transcription factors whose gestational event-driving contributions have been demonstrated more recently. These transcription factors may form pregnancy- and labour- associated transcriptional regulatory networks in the myometrium to modulate the timing of labour onset. A more thorough understanding of the transcription factor-mediated, labour-promoting regulatory pathways holds promise for the development of new therapeutic treatments that can be used for the prevention of preterm labour in at-risk women.
© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. All rights reserved.