Prokineticins: novel mediators of inflammatory and contractile pathways at parturition?

Mol Hum Reprod. 2010 May;16(5):311-9. doi: 10.1093/molehr/gaq014. Epub 2010 Feb 19.


The onset of labour is associated with inflammatory cascades in the uteroplacental unit, and these are prematurely activated in preterm labour. Infection can induce an inflammatory response, which results in premature onset of the pro-inflammatory parturient cascades and preterm delivery. We have become interested in two proteins called prokineticins and the role they may play in labour and its premature onset. Prokineticin 1 and 2 bind to two G-protein coupled receptors, called prokineticin receptor 1 and 2. Expression of the prokineticins and their receptors is elevated in the uteroplacental unit during labour and they can induce expression of a host of genes known to be important in initiating the inflammatory and contractile events of labour. Prokineticins have also been shown to directly induce contractility of smooth muscles. Analysing the promoter regions of the prokineticins and their receptors highlights their potential regulation by pathways activated by infectious agents. Hence, we propose that infection can result in premature activation of prokineticin expression and signalling in the uteroplacental unit and this initiates a premature inflammatory and contractile cascade leading to preterm birth. Antagonism of prokineticin action may provide a suitable therapy for preterm labour that targets both inflammation and contractile pathways.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Hormones / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / metabolism*
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism*
  • Obstetric Labor, Premature / metabolism
  • Parturition / metabolism*
  • Pregnancy
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism
  • Receptors, Peptide / metabolism
  • Uterine Contraction / metabolism*
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor, Endocrine-Gland-Derived / metabolism*


  • Gastrointestinal Hormones
  • Neuropeptides
  • PROK1 protein, human
  • PROK2 protein, human
  • PROKR1 protein, human
  • PROKR2 protein, human
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Receptors, Peptide
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor, Endocrine-Gland-Derived