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Mol Hum Reprod. 2001 Jun;7(6):581-6.

Human labour is associated with nuclear factor-kappaB activity which mediates cyclo-oxygenase-2 expression and is involved with the 'functional progesterone withdrawal'.

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Imperial College School of Medicine, Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea Hospital, Goldhawk Road, London.


Human labour is associated with the up-regulation of prostaglandins within the uterus, synthesized via the type-2 cyclo-oxygenase enzyme (COX-2). These lead to remodelling of the fetal membranes and cervix and to stimulation of myometrial contractions. In the human, the principal source of prostaglandins is the amnion. Progesterone acts to promote myometrial quiescence, and in many species the onset of labour is preceded by withdrawal of progesterone. Humans show no systemic progesterone withdrawal, although biochemical changes within the uterus are similar to those in other species. A mutual negative interaction between the transcription factor nuclear factor (NF)-kappaB and the progesterone receptor (PR) has been reported. Using transient transfections and assays for transcriptional activation and promoter binding, we have shown that there is constitutive activity of NF-kappaB in amnion cells at the time of labour, and that COX-2 expression depends upon NF-kappaB. In cells obtained before labour, in which NF-kappaB activity is low, increasing the concentration of PR represses NF-kappaB dependent transcription, while stimulation with IL-1beta both increases NF-kappaB activity and represses PR activity. Our data suggest that human labour is associated with constitutive NF-kappaB activity within the amnion, which functions to increase the expression of COX-2 and appears to contribute to the 'functional progesterone withdrawal'.

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