Matrix metalloprotease (MMP) activity is increased in the postpartum vagina of wild-type (WT) animals. This degradative activity is also accompanied by a burst in elastic fiber synthesis and assembly. The mechanisms that precipitate these changes are unclear. The goals of this study were to determine how vaginal distention (such as in parturition) affects elastic fiber homeostasis in the vaginal wall and the potential significance of these changes in the pathogenesis of pelvic organ prolapse. Vaginal distention with a balloon simulating parturition resulted in increased MMP-2 and MMP-9 activity in the vaginal wall of nonpregnant and pregnant animals. This was accompanied by visible fragmented and disrupted elastic fibers in the vaginal wall. In nonpregnant animals, the abundant amounts of tropoelastin and fibulin-5 in the vagina were not increased further by distention. In contrast, in pregnant animals, the suppressed levels of both proteins were increased 3-fold after vaginal distention. Distention performed in fibulin-5-deficient (Fbln5-/-) mice with defective elastic fiber synthesis and assembly induced accelerated pelvic organ prolapse, which never recovered. We conclude that, in pregnant mice, vaginal distention results in increased protease activity in the vaginal wall but also increased synthesis of proteins important for elastic fiber assembly. Distention may thereby contribute to the burst of elastic fiber synthesis in the postpartum vagina. The finding that distention results in accelerated pelvic organ prolapse in Fbln5-/- animals, but not in WT, indicates that elastic fiber synthesis is crucial for recovery of the vaginal wall from distention-induced increases in vaginal protease activity.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Journal||American Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology|
|State||Published - Oct 2008|
- Childbirth trauma
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physiology (medical)