Prostaglandin endoperoxide H synthase (PGHS) activity and PGHS-1 and -2 messenger ribonucleic acid abundance in human chorion throughout gestation and with preterm labor

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1998 Apr;83(4):1358-67. doi: 10.1210/jcem.83.4.4692.


Term and preterm parturition is associated with elevated intrauterine PG production. Although an increase of PG synthesis by the fetal membranes during term labor is well documented, there is little data available regarding the prostanoid production of these tissues at term, before the spontaneous onset of labor. In the present study, we determined the expression of PG H2 synthase (PGHS), the committing and rate-limiting enzyme of prostanoid biosynthesis, in the chorion laeve during gestation. Tissues were collected from 18 patients at term (37-41 weeks of gestation) and from 13 patients between 17 and 35 weeks of pregnancy. None of the patients were in labor. PGHS-specific activity and the abundance of messenger RNAs (mRNAs) encoding the two PGHS isoenzymes (the constitutive PGHS-1 and the inducible PGHS-2) were measured by a cell-free enzyme assay and specific ribonuclease protection assays, respectively. PGHS-specific activity as well as PGHS-1 and -2 mRNA levels were significantly (P < 0.01) higher at term before labor than earlier during gestation. Furthermore, PGHS activity at term exhibited significant positive correlation with PGHS-2 mRNA levels, but not with PGHS-1 mRNA levels. In situ hybridization indicated that the expression of both PGHS mRNAs increased in the epithelial and the mesenchymal cells of the amnion and the chorion laeve at term. Additionally, PGHS activity and mRNA levels were determined in the chorion laeve of a group of patients who gave birth spontaneously before term (30.6 +/- 1 weeks, mean +/- SEM, n = 5), and the values were compared with a group who delivered by cesarean section before labor at a similar gestational age (31.9 +/- 1.4 weeks, n = 5, P > 0.05 vs. the preterm labor group). None of the patients exhibited signs of genital tract infection. PGHS-specific activity and PGHS-1 and -2 mRNA levels were significantly higher in the preterm labor group than in the group who delivered preterm without labor. In situ hybridization suggested that the enhanced PGHS-1 and -2 mRNA expression occurred predominantly in the mesenchymal cells of the fetal membranes at preterm labor. Thus, PGHS-1 and -2 expression increases in the chorion laeve at term before labor, with PGHS-2 as the functionally prevalent isoform. This supports the possibility that PGs originating in the fetal membranes promote the onset of normal labor. Furthermore, preterm labor is associated with the elevated expression of the two PGHS isoenzymes in the chorion laeve. The maturation of the fetal membranes in preparation for term labor involves both the epithelial and the mesenchymal cells, whereas preterm labor is accompanied by the maturation of the mesenchymal tissue components, as reflected by PGHS expression. This difference may have implications in the early recognition of preterm labor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chorion / enzymology*
  • Cyclooxygenase 1
  • Cyclooxygenase 2
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Isoenzymes / genetics
  • Linear Models
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Obstetric Labor, Premature / enzymology*
  • Pregnancy / metabolism*
  • Prostaglandin-Endoperoxide Synthases / genetics
  • Prostaglandin-Endoperoxide Synthases / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis*


  • Isoenzymes
  • Membrane Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Cyclooxygenase 1
  • Cyclooxygenase 2
  • PTGS1 protein, human
  • PTGS2 protein, human
  • Prostaglandin-Endoperoxide Synthases