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T Kimura, K Ogita, C Kusui, K Ohashi, C Azuma, and Y Murata

Many molecules, including steroid and peptide hormones, prostaglandins and cytokines, regulate the preparation, initiation and progression of parturition in mammals. Gene targeting studies show that, in the knockout mice of steroid 5alpha-reductase type 1 gene, prostaglandin F2alpha receptor gene and cytosolic phospholipase A2 gene, parturition was severely disturbed, although live offspring were delivered by Caesarean section. Relaxin gene-disrupted mice also showed protracted labour. However, most knockout mice in which the steroid hormone, prostaglandin, cytokine or peptide hormone (for example, oxytocin, corticotrophin releasing hormone and endothelin) endocrine-paracrine systems are disrupted are inadequate for analysis of the mechanism of parturition because they die before reaching reproductive age or are infertile, or because they reproduce normally. A conditional knockout strategy, for example, using the Cre-LoxP system, should be considered for investigating the biochemical background of parturition to overcome these problems.