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Acta Endocrinol (Copenh). 1987 Mar;114(3):458-64.

Evaluation of enzyme inhibitors of pregnancy associated oxytocinase: application to the measurement of plasma immunoreactive oxytocin during human labour.


The presence of the human placental enzyme, oxytocinase, in blood samples taken during pregnancy causes major methological problems in the radioimmunoassay for plasma oxytocin. Inadequate inhibition of the enzyme activity may lead to spuriously high or low values of plasma oxytocin. This study systematically investigates a variety of enzyme inhibitors. The optimum inhibitory system was obtained by the addition of 10 microliters of cold 125 mmol/l 1.10 phenanthrolene and 1 mol/l EDTA per ml of whole blood into the syringe. Complete enzyme inhibition was maintained for up to 60 min, during which time the lithium heparinized plasma samples were extracted by the Florisil method. Following extraction there was no enzyme activity in the extract residue. Concentrations of phenanthrolene and EDTA necessary to eliminate enzyme activity were 50- and 10-fold greater, respectively, than in any previously reported method. Recovery of synthetic oxytocin added to pregnancy plasma with inhibitors was 80% or higher, over the concentration range 1-100 pmol/l. Extract residue could be stored at -20 degrees C for up to 7 weeks. Dilutions of pregnancy plasma extracts ran parallel to the oxytocin standard curve. Studies on plasma concentrations of oxytocin (OT) during the first stage of labour in 6 patients showed that 3 had pulsatile plasma OT, peak values ranging from 4-10 pmol/l in phase with uterine concentrations, but 2 who had regular uterine activity had no episodic changes in plasma OT. One patient with hypocontractile labour had low non-fluctuating plasma OT.

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