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Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2000 Feb;182(2):458-64.

Reduction-oxidation (redox) state regulation of matrix metalloproteinase activity in human fetal membranes.

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Division of Perinatal Research, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore 21201-1559, USA.



The mechanisms underlying membrane rupture at term and preterm are obscure. Collagenolytic activity of matrix metalloproteinases in amniochorionic membranes increases during spontaneous term and preterm labor associated with intra-amniotic infection. We sought to test the hypothesis that reduction-oxidation homeostasis, which is altered in inflammatory states, directly regulates amniochorionic matrix metalloproteinases.


Membranes were collected from 7 patients undergoing elective cesarean delivery at term, rinsed thoroughly, and immediately incubated in phosphate-buffered sodium chloride solution at 37 degrees C for 24 hours. Matrix metalloproteinase activity in the culture medium was assayed by substrate-gel electrophoresis and normalized against the dry weight of the tissue incubated. Superoxide anions were generated in the presence of membranes by a xanthine (2 mmol/L) and xanthine oxidase (20 mU/mL) mixture and monitored by reduction of ferri-cytochrome c to ferro-cytochrome c. Incubations were performed in the presence of xanthine alone, a xanthine-xanthine oxidase mixture, superoxide dismutase (500 U/mL), a xanthine-xanthine oxidase-superoxide dismutase mixture, nitro-L-arginine (a nitric oxide synthase inhibitor, 1 mmol/L), xanthine-xanthine oxidase-nitro-L-arginine, S-nitroso-N -acetylpenicillamine (a nitric oxide donor, 10 mmol/L), xanthine-xanthine oxidase-S-nitroso-N -acetylpenicillamine, N -acetylcysteine (a thiol-containing antioxidant, 0.1, 1, or 10 mmol/L), lipopolysaccharide (100 ng/mL), or lipopolysaccharide-N -acetylcysteine. Intracellular generation of superoxide anions was monitored by the reduction of nitroblue tetrazolium to formazan.


Basal matrix metalloproteinase 9 and matrix metalloproteinase 2 levels were detected in all samples. Superoxide anions significantly increased matrix metalloproteinase 9 activity but did not increase matrix metalloproteinase 2 activity, which effect was reversed by the addition of superoxide dismutase. N-acetylcysteine reduced basal activity of both matrix metalloproteinase 9 and matrix metalloproteinase 2 to 20%. Importantly, N-acetylcysteine completely inhibited intracellular formazan formation in cultured membranes both in the absence and in the presence of lipopolysaccharide. Neither nitric oxide synthase inhibition nor the nitric oxide donor S-nitroso-N -acetylpenicillamine had any effect on fetal membrane matrix metalloproteinase activity.


Matrix metalloproteinase activity in human fetal membranes is reduction-oxidation (redox)-regulated. Matrix metalloproteinase 9 activity in human fetal membranes is directly increased by superoxide anion, a byproduct of macrophages and neutrophils. Neither nitric oxide donors nor nitric oxide synthase inhibitors significantly affect matrix metalloproteinase activity in human fetal membranes. The glutathione precursor N-acetylcysteine dramatically inhibits amniochorionic matrix metalloproteinase activity in addition to inhibiting intrinsic superoxide generation within the tissue. Thus thiol-reducing agents, such as N-acetylcysteine, may be beneficial in preventing preterm premature rupture of the membranes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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