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Pediatr Res. 1998 Nov;44(5):615-27.

Regulation of uterine smooth muscle function during gestation.

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Department of Surgery, University of California, San Francisco 94143-0118, USA.


The uterus is unique among smooth muscular organs in that, during pregnancy, it undergoes profound, largely reversible, changes orchestrated by the ovarian hormones. These changes facilitate uterine adaptation to the stretch induced by the growing fetus such that a state of myometrial contractile quiescence can be maintained. This quiescent state usually is maintained until fetal development is sufficient for extrauterine life, at which point unknown mechanisms precipitate conversion to a highly contractile state. Throughout pregnancy, signaling mechanisms for myometrial contractility are altered--first to promote quiescence and then again to promote contractions. The mechanisms responsible for these changes are only partially understood. This review attempts to summarize salient features of many of the changes in uterine contractile signaling and the current state of ongoing investigations of their mechanisms. We have also highlighted some newer information and concepts from nonuterine tissues, which we believe may provide insight into the control of uterine smooth muscle function. Some detail has been omitted, and can be found in the many excellent reviews cited. We hope that this discussion may stimulate the interests of other investigators. The diverse areas of inquiry offer hope that this decade will lead to a fuller understanding of myometrial function and the development of vastly improved approaches for the control of preterm labor.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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