Expression of cyclo-oxygenase types-1 and -2 in human fetal membranes throughout pregnancy


    Human labour is associated with increased prostaglandin synthesis within the fetal membranes. We have studied the expression of the two isoforms of the central prostaglandin synthetic enzyme, cyclo-oxygenase (COX-1 and COX-2), in human fetal membranes throughout pregnancy, at mRNA, protein and activity levels. COX-1 mRNA expression was low in human amnion and chorion-decidua and did not change with gestational age. COX-2 mRNA expression in fetal membranes increased with gestational age, with significant up-regulation prior to the onset of labour and in association with labour. Protein concentrations of COX-1 did not change, whilst concentrations of COX-2 increased from the first to the third trimester. COX activity increased with gestational age and in association with labour, although prostaglandin production in fetal membranes collected after labour was reduced, suggesting reduced substrate supply. These data suggest that it is up-regulation of COX-2, rather than of COX-1, which mediates increased prostaglandin synthesis within the fetal membranes at term. Much of the increase in COX-2 expression precedes the onset of labour, suggesting that it is a cause, rather than a consequence, of labour.

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