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Semin Fetal Neonatal Med. 2004 Dec;9(6):437-44.

Molecular and biochemical mechanisms of preterm labour.

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Imperial College Parturition Research Group, Institute of Reproductive and Developmental Biology, Hammersmith Hospital Campus, Du Cane Road, London W12 ONN, UK.


Parturition involves the synchronization of myometrial activity and structural changes of the cervix, leading to regular co-ordinated uterine contractions and cervical dilatation and effacement. The biochemical events involved in parturition resemble an inflammatory reaction, with growing evidence pointing to a crucial role for pro-inflammatory cytokines and prostaglandins in labour. There is accumulating evidence that there are common mediators involved in the regulation of 'labour-associated proteins', and that, in each case, an increase or decrease in gene expression mediates changes in their concentration. It is possible, therefore, that targeting these common mediators may represent newer strategies for the prevention of preterm labour. Our aim is to review the mechanical and biochemical mechanisms that may be involved in the processes of term and preterm labour. Specifically, we will consider the regulation of some of the 'labour-associated proteins', chemotactic cytokines, prostaglandins and enzymes of the prostaglandin biosynthetic pathway and the oxytocin receptor.

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