Bile acids increase response and expression of human myometrial oxytocin receptor

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2003 Aug;189(2):577-82. doi: 10.1067/s0002-9378(03)00545-3.


Objective: We tested the hypothesis that during intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy bile acids activate the myometrial oxytocin receptor pathway.

Study design: Myometrial sensitivity to oxytocin and oxytocin-receptor messenger RNA and protein level was investigated. The ability of cholic acid to mediate such changes was evaluated.

Results: Cholestasis patients required lesser oxytocin to elicit four uterine contractions in 10 minutes (1.3+/-0.6 vs 3.6+/-0.8 U, P<.05, n=7) and had lower in vitro ED(50) (1.6 x 10(-10) mol/L vs 1.0 x 10(-8) mol/L, P<.05, n=7) than controls. The 24-hour incubation of control myometrial strips (n=7) with cholic acid (20 micromol/L) increased oxytocin sensitivity. Incubation of cultured myometrial cells (n=5) with cholic acid increased oxytocin-receptor expression (messenger RNA and protein).

Conclusion: We demonstrate that during intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy, an activation of the oxytocin receptor pathway occurs. This event seems to be the result of a cholic acid-mediated increase in oxytocin-receptor expression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cholestasis, Intrahepatic / metabolism*
  • Cholic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Myometrium / drug effects*
  • Myometrium / metabolism*
  • Oxytocin / administration & dosage
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Receptors, Oxytocin / genetics
  • Receptors, Oxytocin / metabolism*
  • Uterine Contraction


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Oxytocin
  • Oxytocin
  • Cholic Acid