Placental corticotrophin-releasing hormone and its receptors in human pregnancy and labour: still a scientific enigma.
ABSTRACT It is now accepted that, in humans, placental corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) is involved in the mechanisms controlling the onset of labour; however, the precise biological role in foeto-maternal tissues remain enigmatic. Maternal plasma levels of CRH rise exponentially as pregnancy progresses towards term and peak during labour; however, evidence to link this with an active role in the onset and progression of labour, is still inconclusive. Certainly, one of the tissues targeted by CRH is the myometrial smooth muscle, which expresses a plethora of specific CRH receptors. This finding implicates CRH in the mechanisms preparing the myometrial microenvironment for the onset of labour and possibly in the regulation of active contractility during labour. Other gestational tissues also targeted by CRH include the placenta, foetal membranes and foetal adrenals, where CRH might regulate distinct physiological functions, ranging from control of vascular tone to adrenal steroidogenesis and prostaglandin synthesis and activity. Given the unique, among mammals, pattern of human placental CRH secretion and CRH receptor expression and signalling during pregnancy and labour, there are only limited biological tools available to delineate the actions of CRH in foeto-maternal tissues, primarily based on in vitro characterisation of the signalling and molecular events driven by CRH. This review will set in context the current concepts about the role of CRH and its receptors during pregnancy and labour, focusing on the unresolved questions and paradoxes that currently exist.
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ABSTRACT: The family of CRH-related peptides are suggested to play important roles in the control of myometrial contractility during pregnancy and labor. In this study we investigated the expression of urocortin II (UCN II) in human myometrium and its ability to phosphorylate intracellular components that can be involved in modulating myometrial contractility. Using RT-PCR and fluorescent in situ hybridization, we demonstrated that UCN II and type-2 CRH receptor (CRH-R2) mRNAs were expressed in human nonpregnant and pregnant myometrium. Immunofluorescent studies confirmed protein expression of UCN II in human pregnant myometrial cells, whereas chemical cross-linking studies with radiolabeled UCN II confirmed the presence of CRH-R2 sites with an apparent molecular mass of 50 kDa. Treatment of primary human myometrial cells with UCN II to specifically activate CRH-R2 resulted in a dose-dependent increase of myosin light chain (MLC(20)) phosphorylation. Activation of protein kinase C (PKC) and ERK1/2 was required for the UCN II-induced activation of MLC(20), because treatment of myometrial cells with inhibitors of MAPK kinase 1 (U0126) and PKC (bisindolylmaleimide) inhibited the UCN II-induced phosphorylation of MLC(20). Furthermore, the UCN II effect on MLC(20) was dependent on RhoA translocation to the membrane and subsequent activation of RhoA-associated kinase, as shown by the use of the specific inhibitors exoenzyme C3 and Y27632. Collectively, our data suggest a distinctive role for CRH-R2- specific agonists like UCN II in the control of myometrial contractility during human pregnancy involving sequential activation of PKC, MAPK kinase 1, ERK1/2, RhoA, and RhoA-associated kinase, leading to the MLC(20) phosphorylation.Endocrinology 03/2004; 145(2):890-900. · 4.72 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Peptides of the corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) family signal through the activation of two receptors, CRF receptor type 1 (CRFR1) and type 2 (CRFR2), both of which exist as multiple splice variants. We have identified a cDNA from mouse brain encoding a splice variant, soluble CRFR2alpha (sCRFR2alpha), in which exon 6 is deleted from the gene encoding CRFR2alpha. Translation of this isoform produces a predicted 143-aa soluble protein. The translated protein includes a majority of the first extracellular domain of the CRFR2alpha followed by a unique 38-aa hydrophilic C terminus resulting from a frame shift produced by deletion of exon 6. By using RT-PCR and Southern hybridization, the relative mRNA expression levels of full-length (seven transmembrane domains) CRFR2alpha and the soluble form (sCRFR2alpha) in the mouse brain were measured with a single reaction. The results demonstrate high levels of expression of sCRFR2alpha in the olfactory bulb, cortex, and midbrain regions. A rabbit antiserum raised against a synthetic peptide fragment encoding the unique C terminus revealed specific sCRFR2alpha immunoreactivity in mouse brain slices by immunohistochemistry and in extracts of brain regions by RIA. Interestingly, the sCRFR2alpha immunoreactivity distribution closely approximated that of CRFR1 expression in rodent brain. A protein corresponding to sCRFR2alpha, expressed and purified from either mammalian or bacterial cell systems, binds several CRF family ligands with low nanomolar affinities. Furthermore, the purified sCRFR2alpha protein inhibits cellular responses to CRF and urocortin 1. These data support a potential role of the sCRFR2alpha protein as a possible biological modulator of CRF family ligands.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 03/2005; 102(7):2620-5. · 9.74 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Near term, the human fetal adrenal increases the production of cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS). DHEAS, which acts as substrate for placental estrogen production, induces key changes involved in parturition. The objective of this study was to determine quantitatively the effect of CRH on mRNA levels of enzymes needed for DHEAS production (steroidogenic acute regulatory protein, CYP11A, CYP17, and SULT2A1), to determine the CRH receptor (CRH-R) subtype(s) responsible for CRH action, and to determine the effect of CRH on CRH-R mRNA expression in human adrenal fetal zone (FZ) cells. Human adrenal FZ cells were treated with CRH, ACTH, urocortin (Unc), and CRH antagonists, and RNA was analyzed by microarray and real-time RT-PCR. This study was performed at an academic research laboratory. The main outcome measure was the expression of steroidogenic enzymes and CRH-R. Microarray analysis of human FZ cells treated for 24 h with CRH or ACTH showed increased mRNA expression levels of the genes needed for DHEAS production. Real-time RT-PCR analysis confirmed these data. Induction was lost in the presence of CRH-R1 antagonists, but not CRH-R2 antagonists. Stimulation was reproduced by Unc. The CRH-R1alpha mRNA splice variant was the only type 1 receptor isoform expressed in the fetal adrenal, and treatment with CRH up-regulates its mRNA levels. CRH, Unc, and ACTH stimulate all elements of the DHEAS synthetic pathway and activate CRH-R1 as well. The resulting increased DHEAS levels can be used for placental estrogen synthesis and contribute to the process leading to parturition in humans.Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 10/2005; 90(9):5393-400. · 6.43 Impact Factor