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Mol Hum Reprod. 2013 Nov;19(11):718-26. doi: 10.1093/molehr/gat057. Epub 2013 Aug 22.

Targeting interleukin-6 receptor inhibits preterm delivery induced by inflammation.

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Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine, 2-2 Yamadaoka, Suita, Osaka 565-0871, Japan.


Intrauterine infection is still a common trigger of preterm delivery (PTD) and also a determinant risk factor for the subsequent development of neurodevelopmental abnormalities in neonates. In this study, we examined the expressional pattern of various inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin-1β (IL-1β), IL-6 and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) in placentae complicated with severe chorioamnionitis (CAM) and found that IL-6 is mainly expressed in macrophages in villous mesenchyme by immunohistochemical analysis with anti-CD-68 antibody. Using an experimental lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced PTD model, the therapeutic potential of targeting this cytokine was investigated. Anti-IL-6 receptor antibody (MR16-1) was delivered 6 h before LPS treatment. Mice in the MR16-1 group had a significantly lower rate of PTD (17%) than in the controls (53%, P = 0.026). As a result, MR16-1 treatment significantly prolonged the gestational period (control; 18.4 ± 1.7d, MR16-1; 19.8 ± 1.5d, P = 0.007) without any apparent adverse events on the mice and their pups. In primary human amniotic epithelial cells, pretreatment with a humanized anti-human IL-6 receptor antibody, tocilizumab, significantly inhibited the production of prostaglandin E2 induced by IL-6. In conclusion, IL-6 was strongly expressed mainly in macrophages in villous mesenchyme in placentae complicated with CAM. Anti-IL-6R antibody significantly decreased the rate of PTD in LPS-induced inflammatory model in mice, and inhibited PGE2 production from human primary amniotic epithelial cells. Targeting IL-6 signaling could be a promising option for the prevention of PTD and needs to be further explored for future clinical application.


chorioamnionitis; interleukin-6; macrophage; preterm delivery; tocilizumab

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