New insights into the molecular endocrinology of parturition.
ABSTRACT The signals that lead to the initiation of parturition have remained a mystery. We postulate that in humans and other mammals, uterine quiescence is maintained by increased progesterone receptor (PR) transcriptional activity, and spontaneous labor is initiated or facilitated by a concerted series of biochemical events that negatively impact PR function. In recent studies, we have obtained compelling evidence to suggest that the fetus signals the initiation of labor by secretion into amniotic fluid of major lung surfactant protein, SP-A. SP-A expression is developmentally regulated in fetal lung and is secreted into amniotic fluid in high concentrations near term (after 17 days postcoitum [dpc] in the mouse). We found that injection of exogenous SP-A into mouse amniotic fluid at 15 dpc caused preterm labor. SP-A activated amniotic fluid macrophages in vitro to express nuclear factor kappaB (NF-kappaB) and interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta). These macrophages, which are of fetal origin, migrate to the pregnant uterus causing an inflammatory response and increased uterine NF-kappaB activity. We suggest that the increase in NF-kappaB within the maternal uterus both directly increases expression of genes that promote uterine contractility and negatively impacts the capacity of the PR to maintain uterine quiescence, contributing to the onset of labor. Our findings, therefore, indicate that SP-A secreted into amniotic fluid by the maturing fetal lung serves as a hormone of parturition.
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ABSTRACT: We have previously proposed that uterine caspase-3 may modulate uterine contractility in a gestationally regulated fashion. The objective of this study was to determine the mechanism by which uterine caspase-3 is activated and consequently controlled in the pregnant uterus across gestation. Utilizing the mouse uterus as our gestational model we examined the intrinsic and extrinsic apoptotic signaling pathways and the endoplasmic reticulum stress response as potential activators of uterine caspase-3 at the transcriptional and translational level. Our study revealed robust activation of the uterine myocyte endoplasmic reticulum stress response and its adaptive unfolded protein response during pregnancy coinciding respectively with increased uterine caspase-3 activity and its withdrawal to term. In contrast the intrinsic and extrinsic apoptotic signaling pathways remained inactive across gestation. We speculate that physiological stimuli experienced by the pregnant uterus likely potentiates the uterine myocyte endoplasmic reticulum stress response resulting in elevated caspase-3 activation, which is isolated to the pregnant mouse myometrium. However as term approaches, activation of an elevated adaptive unfolded protein response acts to limit the endoplasmic reticulum stress response inhibiting caspase-3 resulting in its decline towards term. We speculate that these events have the capacity to regulate gestational length in a caspase-3 dependent manner.PLoS ONE 09/2013; 8(9):e75152. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0075152 · 3.53 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Preterm birth is a leading cause of perinatal mortality, yet the evolutionary history of this obstetrical syndrome is largely unknown in nonhuman primate species. We examined the length of gestation during pregnancies that occurred in a captive chimpanzee colony by inspecting veterinary and behavioral records spanning a total of thirty years. Upon examination of these records we were able to confidently estimate gestation length for 93 of the 97 (96%) pregnancies recorded at the colony. In total, 78 singleton gestations resulted in live birth, and from these pregnancies we estimated the mean gestation length of normal chimpanzee pregnancies to be 228 days, a finding consistent with other published reports. We also calculated that the range of gestation in normal chimpanzee pregnancies is approximately forty days. Of the remaining fifteen pregnancies, only one of the offspring survived, suggesting viability for chimpanzees requires a gestation of approximately 200 days. These fifteen pregnancies constitute spontaneous abortions and preterm deliveries, for which the upper gestational age limit was defined as 2 SD from the mean length of gestation (208 days). The present study documents that preterm birth occurred within our study population of captive chimpanzees. As in humans, pregnancy loss is not uncommon in chimpanzees, In addition, our findings indicate that both humans and chimpanzees show a similar range of normal variation in gestation length, suggesting this was the case at the time of their last common ancestor (LCA). Nevertheless, our data suggest that whereas chimpanzees' normal gestation length is ∼20-30 days after reaching viability, humans' normal gestation length is approximately 50 days beyond the estimated date of viability without medical intervention. Future research using a comparative evolutionary framework should help to clarify the extent to which mechanisms at work in normal and preterm parturition are shared in these species.PLoS ONE 09/2011; 6(9):e24509. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0024509 · 3.53 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Recent research has pointed to the developing immune system as a remarkably sensitive toxicologic target for environmental chemicals and drugs. In fact, the perinatal period before and just after birth is replete with dynamic immune changes, many of which do not occur in adults. These include not only the basic maturation and distribution of immune cell types and selection against autoreactive lymphocytes but also changes designed specifically to protect the pregnancy against immune-mediated miscarriage. The newborn is then faced with critical immune maturational adjustments to achieve an immune balance necessary to combat myriad childhood and later-life diseases. All these processes set the fetus and neonate completely apart from the adult regarding immunotoxicologic risk. Yet for decades, safety evaluation has relied almost exclusively upon exposure of the adult immune system to predict perinatal immune risk. Recent workshops and forums have suggested a benefit in employing alternative exposures that include exposure throughout early life stages. However, issues remain concerning when and where such applications might be required. In this review we discuss the reasons why immunotoxic assessment is important for current childhood diseases and why adult exposure assessment cannot predict the effect of xenobiotics on the developing immune system. It also provides examples of developmental immunotoxicants where age-based risk appears to differ. Finally, it stresses the need to replace adult exposure assessment for immune evaluation with protocols that can protect the developing immune system.Environmental Health Perspectives 05/2006; 114(4):477-83. DOI:10.1289/ehp.8566 · 7.03 Impact Factor