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J Reprod Immunol. 2010 Mar;84(2):176-85. doi: 10.1016/j.jri.2009.12.004. Epub 2010 Jan 21.

Pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines in human preterm and term cervical ripening.

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  • 1Department of Woman and Child Health, Karolinska Institute, FRH-lab C4:U1, KBH, 171 76 Stockholm, Sweden.


Cervical ripening is necessary for successful delivery. Since cytokines are believed to be involved in this process, the aim of this study was to investigate possible changes in the mRNA and protein expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines (interleukin (IL)-1alpha, IL-1beta, IL-12, IL-18) and anti-inflammatory cytokines (IL-4, IL-10, IL-13) in the human cervix during pregnancy, term and preterm labor. Cervical biopsies were taken from 59 women: 21 at preterm labor, 24 at term labor, 10 at term not in labor and 4 from non-pregnant women. mRNA was analyzed with real-time RT-PCR and protein expression and/or secretion with immunohistochemistry and ELISA. There was an upregulation of mRNA for IL-10, IL-13, IL-1alpha and IL-1beta in the laboring groups, while mRNA for IL-12 and IL-18 was downregulated. IL-4 mRNA was detected more frequently, while IL-12 mRNA expression was lower, in the preterm labor group than in the term labor group. The protein levels of IL-4 and IL-12 were lower and IL-18 tended to be higher in the labor groups, while IL-10 protein levels were unaffected by labor. IL-4 protein levels were significantly higher in the preterm subgroup with bacterial infection than in the non-infected group. IL-10 had higher expression in squamous epithelium at preterm labor than at term. In conclusion, the major changes in pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokine mRNA and protein expression in cervix occur during the labor process irrespective of the length of gestation. Our results indicate that dysregulation of anti-inflammatory cytokines in the human cervix could be involved in the pathogenesis of preterm labor.

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