Cytokines, prostaglandins and parturition--a review

Placenta. 2003 Apr;24 Suppl A:S33-46. doi: 10.1053/plac.2002.0948.


The elaboration of cytokines, chemokines and immunomodulatory proteins in the placenta and gestational membranes has been extensively investigated in the context of both normal and abnormal pregnancy and delivery. Patterns of expression of cytokines in the foetal membranes and decidua suggest that inflammatory activation occurs modestly with term labour, but much more robustly in preterm delivery, particularly in the presence of intrauterine infection. Enhanced chemokine expression, particularly evident in deliveries with an infected amniotic cavity, is presumably responsible for recruiting infiltrating leukocytes into the membranes thereby amplifying the inflammatory process and hastening membrane rupture and delivery. Anti-inflammatory cytokines suppress inflammatory reactions in the placenta, but under some circumstances may act in a pro-inflammatory fashion in the membranes. Intracellular signalling by cytokines is modulated by proteins such as SOCS (Silencer Of Cytokine Signalling)-1, -2 and -3. Changes in the abundance of these proteins occur with term labour, implicating them as modulators of cytokine actions around the time of parturition. Prostaglandins, released by the membranes in response to stretch and the actions of pro-inflammatory cytokines, act not only upon the myometrium and cervix, but may also exert paracrine/autocrine effects on cell viability and matrix protein integrity. The localization and regulation of prostanoid isomerases, responsible for converting PGH(2) (derived from prostaglandin H synthase-1 and -2) to bioactive prostanoids, are being studied in these tissues, particularly in the context of cytokine interactions. Although the gestational tissues are known to be sources of PGD(2), PGJ(2) and its derivatives, the regulation of production of these prostaglandins has yet to be studied in any detail and their actions, which may include apoptosis and suppression of inflammation, remain poorly defined. A more complete understanding of these aspects of cytokine-prostaglandin interactions in pregnancy and parturition will, no doubt, unfold as current studies come to fruition.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chemokines / biosynthesis
  • Chemokines / genetics
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis*
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Obstetric Labor, Premature / genetics
  • Obstetric Labor, Premature / immunology
  • Obstetric Labor, Premature / physiopathology
  • Parturition / genetics
  • Parturition / immunology*
  • Parturition / physiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prostaglandin D2 / physiology
  • Prostaglandins / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Chemokines
  • Cytokines
  • Prostaglandins
  • Prostaglandin D2