Cervical softening during pregnancy: Regulated changes in collagen cross-linking and composition of matricellular proteins in the mouse

Meredith L. Akins, Katherine Luby-Phelps, Ruud A. Bank, Mala Mahendroo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

86 Scopus citations

Abstract

A greater understanding of the parturition process is essential in the prevention of preterm birth, which occurs in 12.7% of infants born in the United States annually. Cervical remodeling is a critical component of this process. Beginning early in pregnancy, remodeling requires cumulative, progressive changes in the cervical extracellular matrix (ECM) that result in reorganization of collagen fibril structure with a gradual loss of tensile strength. In the current study, we undertook a detailed biochemical analysis of factors in the cervix that modulate collagen structure during early mouse pregnancy, including expression of proteins involved in processing of procollagen, assembly of collagen fibrils, cross-link formation, and deposition of collagen in the ECM. Changes in these factors correlated with changes in the types of collagen cross-links formed and packing of collagen fibrils as measured by electron microscopy. Early in pregnancy there is a decline in expression of two matricellular proteins, thrombospondin 2 and tenascin C, as well as a decline in expression of lysyl hydroxylase, which is involved in cross-link formation. These changes are accompanied by a decline in both HP and LP cross-links by gestation Days 12 and 14, respectively, as well as a progressive increase in collagen fibril diameter. In contrast, collagen abundance remains constant over the course of pregnancy. We conclude that early changes in tensile strength during cervical softening result in part from changes in the number and type of collagen cross-links and are associated with a decline in expression of two matricellular proteins thrombospondin 2 and tenascin C.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1053-1062
Number of pages10
JournalBiology of reproduction
Volume84
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2011

Keywords

  • Cervical remodeling
  • Cervical softening
  • Cervix
  • Collagen crosslinking
  • Parturition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Cell Biology

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