Biochemical changes of cervical connective tissue, including progressive disorganization of the collagen network and increased water content, occur during gestation to allow for cervical dilatation during labor, but the mechanisms that regulate cervical fluid balance are not fully understood. We examined whether aquaporins (AQPs), a family of membrane channel proteins that facilitate water transport, help mediate fluid balance in the mouse cervix during parturition. Of the 13 known murine AQPs, AQP0-2, 6, 7, 9, 11, and 12 were absent or at the limits of detection. By Northern blot and real-time PCR, AQP3 expression was low in nongravid and mid-pregnancy cervices with peak expression on d 19 and postpartum d 1 (PP1). AQP4 expression was generally low throughout pregnancy but showed a small upward trend at the time of parturition. AQP5 and AQP8 expression were significantly increased on d 12-15 but fell to nongravid/baseline by d 19 and PP1. By in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry, AQP3 was preferentially expressed in basal cell layers of the cervical epithelium, whereas AQP4, 5, and 8 were primarily expressed in apical cell layers. Females with LPS-induced preterm labor had similar trends in AQP4, 5, and 8 expression to mice with natural labor at term gestation. Mice with delayed cervical remodeling due to deletion of the steroid 5α-reductase type 1 gene showed significant reduction in the levels of AQP3, 4, and 8 on d 19 or PP1. Together, these studies suggest that AQPs 3, 4, 5, and 8 regulate distinct aspects of cervical water balance during pregnancy and parturition.
ASJC Scopus subject areas