Recent studies have demonstrated a strong correlation between infection and preterm labor. Preterm delivery is also associated with high levels of cytokines and prostaglandins in amniotic fluid. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) on the levels of cyclooxygenase, prostaglandin E2 production (PGE2), and expression of the PGE2 receptor subtype EP1 in amnion WISH cell culture. Amnion WISH cell cultures were incubated in increasing concentrations of TNF-alpha (0-50 ng/ml). Changes in cyclooxygenase and EP1 receptor proteins were evaluated by Western blot analysis. Changes in EP1 mRNA were evaluated by Northern blot, and culture fluid concentrations of PGE2 were estimated by enzyme immunoassay (EIA). EP1 protein (p<0.01), EP1 mRNA (p<0.05), cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) protein (p<0.001), and PGE2 concentrations (p<0.01) all increased with increasing concentrations of TNF-alpha. Changes in COX-1 protein were not observed following TNF-alpha-incubation. The results suggest that TNF-alpha may play a role in infection-induced preterm labor by its pleiotropic ability to simultaneously stimulate COX-2 activity, PGE2 concentrations, and PGE2 EP1 receptor levels in human amnion.