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Pediatr Res. 2005 Feb;57(2):263-9. Epub 2004 Dec 20.

Activation of umbilical cord endothelial cells and fetal inflammatory response in preterm infants with chorioamnionitis and funisitis.

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  • 1University Children's Hospital, 97080 Wuerzburg, Germany.


Chorioamnionitis and funisitis are associated with preterm labor and postnatal morbidity. Activation of endothelium resulting in up-regulation of adhesion molecules seems to be a key mechanism in development of organ damage. We investigated whether chorioamnionitis with or without funisitis in preterm infants induced expression and shedding of adhesion molecules in the umbilical cord and resulted in increased concentrations of E-selectin, intercellular adhesion molecule (ICAM)-1, IL-1beta, IL-6, and IL-8 in the cord blood. Data were obtained by using immunohistochemistry and ELISA. Thirty-two preterm infants were divided into three groups according to histology: chorioamnionitis with funisitis, chorioamnionitis without funisitis, and controls without signs of inflammation. ICAM-1 expression on arterial endothelium was higher with funisitis compared with chorioamnionitis alone or with the control group. Similar results for ICAM-1 expression were found in venous endothelium, vascular walls, Wharton's jelly, and amnion epithelium. Endothelial E-selectin and vascular cell adhesion molecule (VCAM)-1 expression was only induced significantly with funisitis. Serum-concentrations of soluble ICAM-1 were higher with funisitis compared with chorioamnionitis alone or control group. Similarly, concentrations of soluble E-selectin, IL-1beta, IL-6, and IL-8 were increased exclusively with funisitis. In conclusion, only chorioamnionitis with funisitis was associated with systemic inflammation and endothelial activation with up-regulation and shedding of umbilical cord adhesion molecules. We speculate that this activation of endothelium may not be limited to the umbilical cord but may also involve other organs resulting in neonatal morbidity. This underlines the importance of funisitis as a risk factor for adverse outcome.

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