Infertility is a worldwide problem that affects >7% of women of child-bearing age. More than half of those affected seek medical advice in the hope of eventually being able to become a mother. Causes of female infertility can be broadly classified regarding as acquired or genetic, or strictly by location.
Around 1% women trying to conceive have recurrent miscarriages, defined as the loss of three or more consecutive pregnancies.
SGK1 is the most intensively studied encodes a serine/threonine protein kinase that is highly similar to the rat serum and glucocorticoid induced protein kinase (SGK). This gene was identified in a screen of hepatocellular genes regulated in response to cellular hydration or swelling. Cellular hydration is a catabolic signal, stimulating glycogenolysis and proteolysis, and inhibiting protein and glycogen synthesis. This kinase has been shown to be important in activating certain potassium, sodium, and chloride channels.
SGK1 Protein- an enzyme that acts as a “fertility switch”
Jan Brosens,a researcher at Imperial College London found that high levels of a protein called SGK1 are linked with infertility, while low levels of it make a woman more likely to have a miscarriage. Thus this enzyme acts as a “fertility switch” and say their findings could help treat infertility and miscarriage and may also act as contraceptives.
In the study, Brosens’ team examined the tissue samples from the womb lining, donated by 106 women who were being treated either for unexplained infertility or recurrent miscarriage. They had been trying to get pregnant for two years or more, and the most...
common reasons for infertility had been ruled out.
In further experiments using mice, the team found that levels of SGK1 in the womb lining decline during the fertile window in mice. When extra copies of an SGK1 gene were implanted into the womb lining, the mice were unable to get pregnant. This suggests that a fall in SGK1 levels is essential for making the uterus receptive to embryos.
“Low levels of SGK1 make the womb lining vulnerable to cellular stress, which might explain why low SGK1 was more common in women who have had recurrent miscarriage. In the future, we might take biopsies of the womb lining to identify abnormalities that might give them a higher risk of pregnancy complications, so that we can start treating them before they get pregnant.”
This research may eventually lead to ways to manipulate the effects of this protein to increase the likelihood of successful pregnancy. However, further research will make practical application of these findings a reality.