Cytokines of the placenta and extra-placental membranes: roles and regulation during human pregnancy and parturition

J M Bowen, L Chamley, J A Keelan, M D Mitchell
Placenta 2002, 23 (4): 257-73
Summary In an earlier, companion, review, we concluded that cytokines produced by the placenta and associated membranes are likely to be involved in control of the processes of implantation and placental development (Bowen et al., 2002). In this review, we discuss evidence that cytokines continue to be part of a paracrine/autocrine regulatory network in the placenta and membranes throughout the mid and late stages of gestation. Cytokines are involved in regulation of placental growth during these later stages of pregnancy and also function to protect the fetus from pathological organisms. The evidence, while not entirely consistent, suggests that production of certain cytokines within the extraplacental membranes is altered during normal term parturition, whereas in the villous placenta evidence of labour-associated changes is much more equivocal. Roles for cytokines have been postulated in many facets of parturition, including expulsion of the fetus by uterine contractions, membrane rupture, and dilation of the cervix. Imbalances and disruptions to the cytokine milieu have been implicated in a number of diseases of pregnancy involving abnormalities of both placental growth/establishment and initiation of parturition. Cytokine secretion induced by intrauterine infection is associated with increased occurrence or severity of some neonatal diseases. This wealth of data supports the view that cytokines are an integral part of a functional regulatory/communication network operating within the placental-maternal unit during normal gestation.

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