BACKGROUND: Elucidation of the biochemical pathways involved in activation of preterm and term human labour would facilitate the development of effective management and inform judgements regarding the necessity for preterm tocolysis and post-term induction. Prostaglandins act at all stages of human reproduction, and are potentially activators of labour.
METHODS: Expression of 15 genes involved in prostaglandin synthesis, transport and degradation was measured by qPCR using tissue samples from human placenta, amnion and choriodecidua at preterm and full-term vaginal and caesarean delivery. Cellular localisation of eight prostaglandin pathway proteins was determined by immunohistochemistry.
RESULTS: Expression of prostaglandin pathway genes was differentially affected by factors including gestational age at delivery, and the incidence and duration of labour. Chorioamnionitis/deciduitis was associated with upregulation of PTGS2 (prostaglandin-endoperoxide synthase 2 (prostaglandin G/H synthase and cyclooxygenase)), along with the inflammatory genes IL8 (interleukin 8), S100A8 (S100 calcium binding protein A8) and TLR2 (toll-like receptor 2), in amnion and choriodecidua, and with downregulation of CBR1 (carbonyl reductase 1) and HPGD (hydroxyprostaglandin dehydrogenase 15-(NAD)) in choriodecidua. Protein localisation differed greatly between the various maternal and fetal cell types.
CONCLUSIONS: Preterm and term labour are associated with distinct prostaglandin pathway expression profiles; inflammation provokes specific changes, unrelated to the presence of labour; spontaneous and induced term labour are indistinguishable.