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J Soc Gynecol Investig. 2006 Feb;13(2):97-103.

Leukocyte density and proinflammatory mediator expression in regional human fetal membranes and decidua before and during labor at term.

Author information

  • 1Division of Developmental Medicine, Reproductive and Maternal Medicine, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Glasgow, United Kingdom. InassOsman@aol.com



The region of fetal membranes overlying the cervix, known as the zone of altered morphology (ZAM), is considered to be the principle site of membrane inflammatory activity and extracellular matrix remodelling. We wished to quantify the relative contribution of each area of fetal membranes to the inflammatory process of parturition. Specifically, we aimed to quantify and compare (1) leukocyte densities in three regions of fetal membranes and decidua before and during spontaneous labor at term, and (2) mRNA expression of interleukin (IL)-1beta, IL-6, IL-8, cyclo-oxygenase type 1 (COX-1), and COX-2 in three regions of fetal membranes and decidua before and during spontaneous labor at term.


Biopsies of fetal membranes and decidua were obtained from pregnant women delivered by cesarean section at term both before and during spontaneous labor (n = 8 both groups). Fetal membranes were sampled from three areas, the ZAM, midzone (MZ), and periplacental (PP) regions. Leukocytes were identified by immunohistochemistry and their density quantified. Inflammatory mediator expression was quantified using TaqMan technology (Applied Biosystems, Foster City, CA).


There was a significantly greater density of leukocytes in (1) the PP region of membranes compared with the ZAM, and (2) the decidua compared with amnion, amniotic connective tissue, and chorion. IL-1beta, IL-6, and IL-8 mRNA expression was significantly greater in all regions following spontaneous labor compared with nonlaboring tissues. There were no regional differences in cytokine expression within the fetal membranes. Choriodecidua expressed significantly more IL-1beta mRNA than amnion. Amnion expressed more COX-2 mRNA than choriodecidua.


All regions of fetal membranes and decidua contribute to the inflammatory process of human parturition; however, their relative contributions differ in magnitude. Although the ZAM may be specifically important for membrane rupture, it does not appear to play a key or exclusive role in the other inflammatory processes of parturition. When studying fetal membranes, it is relevant to identify and define the area sampled for consistency and comparison with other studies.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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