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Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2017 May 15;447:79-86. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2017.02.034. Epub 2017 Feb 22.

11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 and pregnancy: Role in the timing of labour onset and in myometrial contraction.

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Department of Molecular and Developmental Medicine, University of Siena, Siena, Italy. Electronic address:
Tommy's Centre for Maternal and Fetal Health at the Medical Research Council Centre for Reproductive Health, University of Edinburgh, Queen's Medical Research Institute, Edinburgh, United Kingdom.
Department of Molecular and Developmental Medicine, University of Siena, Siena, Italy.


Glucocorticoids play a primary role in the maturation of fetal organs and may contribute to the onset of labour. Glucocorticoid activity depends on the 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase family (11β-HSDs), catalysing the interconversion between "active" cortisol into inactive cortisone. No definitive study exists on 11β-HSD expression profile in human decidua and myometrium during pregnancy. We investigated the implications of 11β-HSD1 in the regulation of uterine activity in pregnancy, examining its role on contraction of a myocyte cell line and murine 11β-hsd1 levels in utero. Murine 11β-hsd1 mRNA and protein levels in utero progressively increased until the last day of gestation and significantly decreased at the onset of labour (P < 0.0001) (n = 3 to 5 in the various gestational days analysed). Experiments on human myometrial samples confirm the significant fall in 11β-hsd1 mRNA levels at labour, compared to end pregnancy samples (n = 5 to 8). In vitro experiments showed that human myometrial contraction is inhibited by using a non-selective inhibitor of 11β-HSD1. The present study shows the temporal localisation of 11β-HSD1 in uterus, highlighting its importance in the timing of gestation and suggesting its contribution in the myometrium contraction.


11beta-HSD; Cortisol; Labour; Myometrium; Pregnancy

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