Neuroendocrine Mechanisms in Pregnancy and Parturition

Felice Petraglia, Alberto Imperatore, John R. G. Challis
2010 Endocrine reviews  
The complex mechanisms controlling human parturition involves mother, fetus, and placenta, and stress is a key element activating a series of physiological adaptive responses. Preterm birth is a clinical syndrome that shares several characteristics with term birth. A major role for the neuroendocrine mechanisms has been proposed, and placenta/membranes are sources for neurohormones and peptides. Oxytocin (OT) is the neurohormone whose major target is uterine contractility and placenta
more » ... a novel source that contributes to the mechanisms of parturition. The CRH/urocortin (Ucn) family is another important neuroendocrine pathway involved in term and preterm birth. The CRH/Ucn family consists of four ligands: CRH, Ucn, Ucn2, and Ucn3. These peptides have a pleyotropic function and are expressed by human placenta and fetal membranes. Uterine contractility, blood vessel tone, and immune function are influenced by CRH/Ucns during pregnancy and undergo major changes at parturition. Among the others, neurohormones, relaxin, parathyroid hormone-related protein, opioids, neurosteroids, and monoamines are expressed and secreted from placental tissues at parturition. Preterm birth is the consequence of a premature and sustained activation of endocrine and immune responses. A preterm birth evidence for a premature activation of OT secretion as well as increased maternal plasma CRH levels suggests a pathogenic role of these neurohormones. A decrease of maternal serum CRH-binding protein is a concurrent event. At midgestation, placental hypersecretion of CRH or Ucn has been proposed as a predictive marker of subsequent preterm delivery. While placenta represents the major source for CRH, fetus abundantly secretes Ucn and adrenal dehydroepiandrosterone in women with preterm birth. The relevant role of neuroendocrine mechanisms in preterm birth is sustained by basic and clinic implications. (Endocrine Reviews 31: 783-816, 2010)
doi:10.1210/er.2009-0019 pmid:20631004 fatcat:4rcvictojbhkxd5cten2ccn47u