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Martha Lappas

Nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB)-induced inflammation plays a central role in the terminal process of human labor and delivery. Our previous studies show that IL1B induces NF-κB signaling through extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK; official gene symbol MAPK1), whereas TNF induces NF-κB-driven transcription of pro-labor mediators via an MAPK1-independent mechanism. Raf kinase inhibitor protein (RKIP) negatively regulates inflammation by inhibiting NF-κB activation directly or indirectly by inhibiting MAPK1. The role of RKIP in the processes of human labor and delivery is not known. The present study was performed to investigate the expression of RKIP in laboring and non-laboring human myometrium and determine the effect of siRNA knockdown of RKIP (siRKIP) on pro-labor mediators in human myometrial primary cells. Term labor was associated with a decrease in RKIP expression. Furthermore, RKIP expression was decreased in myometrial cells treated with IL1B and TNF, two likely factors contributing to preterm birth. The effect of siRKIP in primary myometrial cells was a significant augmentation of IL1B- and TNF-induced CXCL1 and CXCL8 mRNA abundance and secretion; PTGS2 mRNA levels and prostaglandin PGF release and MMP9 mRNA abundance and pro-MMP9 secretion. There was no effect of siRKIP on MAPK1 activation. On the other hand, RKIP knockdown was associated with increased activation of NF-κB RELA in the presence of IL1B and TNF. In conclusion, in human primary myometrial cells, RKIP negatively regulates IL1B- and TNF-induced expression and or secretion of pro-inflammatory and pro-labor mediators by inhibiting NF-κB RELA activation.

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Martha Lappas

Inflammation plays a central role in the terminal process of human labour and delivery, including myometrial contractions. RAF1 proto-oncogene serine/threonine-protein kinase (RAF1) can activate ERK (official gene symbol MAPK1) and/or nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB) to regulate genes involved in inflammation. There are, however, no studies on the role of RAF1 in the processes of human labour and delivery. Thus, the aims of this study were to determine the effect of i) human labour and pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin 1 beta (IL1B) and tumour necrosis factor (TNF) alpha on RAF1 protein expression in myometrium and ii) siRNA knockdown of RAF1 on pro-inflammatory and pro-labour mediators in human myometrial primary cells. Term labour was associated with an increase in RAF1 protein expression. Furthermore, RAF1 protein expression was increased in myometrial cells treated with IL1B and TNF, two likely factors contributing to preterm birth. Knockdown of RAF1 by siRNA in primary myometrial cells significantly decreased IL1B- and TNF-induced IL1A, IL1B, IL6, (C-X-C motif) ligand 8 (CXCL8)and chemokine (C-C motif) ligand 2 (CCL2) mRNA abundance and IL6, IL8 and CCL2; prostaglandin-endoperoxide synthase 2 (PTGS2) mRNA levels and prostaglandin PGF2 α release; and NF-κB activation. Furthermore, RAF1 knockdown was associated with decreased activation of ERK in the presence of IL1B but not TNF. Concordantly, the ERK inhibitor U0126 significantly decreased IL1B-induced IL6, CXCL8, CCL2 and PTGS2 mRNA abundance; IL6, CXCL8, CCL2 and PGF2 α release; and NF-κB activation. In conclusion, IL1B induces the expression and secretion of pro-labour mediators through the RAF1–MAPK1–NF-κB signalling pathway. TNF, on the other hand, regulates pro-labour mediators through the RAF1–NF-κB signalling pathway via an MAPK1-independent mechanism.

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Martha Lappas

The transcription factor Kruppel-like factor 5 (KLF5) has been shown to associate with nuclear factor kappa B (NFκB) to regulate genes involved in inflammation. However, there are no studies on the expression and regulation of KLF5 in the processes of human labour and delivery. Thus, the aims of this study were to determine the effect of i) human labour on KLF5 expression in both foetal membranes and myometrium; ii) the pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin 1 beta (IL1 β), bacterial product flagellin and the viral dsRNA analogue poly(I:C) on KLF5 expression and iii) KLF5 knockdown by siRNA in human myometrial primary cells on pro-inflammatory and pro-labour mediators. In foetal membranes, there was no effect of term or preterm labour on KLF5 expression. In myometrium, the term labour was associated with an increase in nuclear KLF5 protein expression. Moreover, KLF5 expression was also increased in myometrial cells treated with IL1β, flagellin or poly(IC), likely factors contributing to preterm birth. KLF5 silencing in myometrial cells significantly decreased IL1β-induced cytokine expression (IL6 and IL8 mRNA expression and release), COX2 mRNA expression, and subsequent release of prostaglandins PGE2 and PGF2 α. KLF5 silencing also significantly reduced flagellin- and poly(I:C)-induced IL6 and IL8 mRNA expression. Lastly, IL1β-, flagellin- and poly(I:C)-stimulated NFκB transcriptional activity was significantly suppressed in KLF5-knockout myometrial cells. In conclusion, this study describes novel data in which KLF5 is increased in labouring myometrium, and KLF5 silencing decreased inflammation- and infection-induced pro-labour mediators.

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Ratana Lim and Martha Lappas

Preterm birth remains the largest single cause of neonatal death and morbidity. Infection and/or inflammation are strongly associated with preterm delivery. Glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK3) is known to be a crucial mediator of inflammation homeostasis. The aims of this study were to determine the effect of spontaneous human labour in foetal membranes and myometrium on GSK3α/β expression, and the effect of inhibition of GSK3α/β on pro-labour mediators in foetal membranes and myometrium stimulated with Toll-like receptor (TLR) ligands and pro-inflammatory cytokines. Term and preterm labour in foetal membranes was associated with significantly decreased serine phosphorylated GSK3α and β expression, and thus increased GSK3 activity. There was no effect of term labour on serine phosphorylated GSK3β expression in myometrium. The specific GSK3α/β inhibitor CHIR99021 significantly decreased lipopolysaccharide (ligand to TLR4)-stimulated pro-inflammatory cytokine gene expression and release; COX2 gene expression and prostaglandin release; and MMP9 gene expression and pro MMP9 release in foetal membranes and/or myometrium. CHIR99021 also decreased FSL1 (TLR2 ligand) and flagellin (TLR5 ligand)-induced pro-inflammatory cytokine gene expression and release and COX2 mRNA expression and prostaglandin release. GSK3 β siRNA knockdown in primary myometrial cells was associated with a significant decrease in IL1β and TNFα-induced pro-inflammatory cytokine and prostaglandin release. In conclusion, GSK3α/β activity is increased in foetal membranes after term and preterm labour. Pharmacological blockade of the kinase GSK3 markedly reduced pro-inflammatory and pro-labour mediators in human foetal membranes and myometrium, providing a possible therapeutics for the management of preterm labour.

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Ratana Lim, Gillian Barker and Martha Lappas

Preterm birth is a prevalent cause of neonatal deaths worldwide. Inflammation has been implicated in spontaneous preterm birth involved in the processes of uterine contractility and membrane rupture. Parkinson protein 7 (PARK7) has been found to play an inflammatory role in non-gestational tissues. The aims of this study were to determine the expression of PARK7 in myometrium and fetal membranes with respect to term labour onset and to elucidate the effect of PARK7 silencing in primary myometrium and amnion cells on pro-inflammatory and pro-labour mediators. PARK7 mRNA expression was higher in term myometrium and fetal membranes from women in labour compared to non-labouring samples and in amnion from preterm deliveries with chorioamnionitis. In human primary myometrial cells transfected with PARK7 siRNA (siPARK7), there was a significant decrease in IL1B, TNF, fsl-1 and poly(I:C)-induced expression of pro-inflammatory cytokine IL6, chemokines (CXCL8, CCL2), adhesion molecule ICAM1, prostaglandin PGF and its receptor PTGFR. Similarly, amnion cells transfected with siPARK7 displayed a decrease in IL1B-induced expression of IL6, CXCL8 and ICAM1. In myometrial cells transfected with siPARK7, there was a significant reduction of NF-κB RELA transcriptional activity when stimulated with fsl-1, flagellin and poly(I:C), but not with IL1B or TNF. Collectively, our novel data describe a role for PARK7 in regulating inflammation-induced pro-inflammatory and pro-labour mediators in human myometrial and amnion cells.

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Stella Liong, Gillian Barker and Martha Lappas

Preeclampsia affects 5% of all pregnancies and is a serious disorder of pregnancy, characterised by high maternal blood pressure, placental hypoxia, fluid retention (oedema) and proteinuria. Women with preeclampsia are associated with exaggerated levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines and anti-angiogenic factors such as soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase-1 (sFLT1). Studies in non-gestational tissues have described the bromodomain (BRD) and extraterminal family of proteins, in particular BRD4 to play a critical role in propagating inflammation and is currently a therapeutic target for treating cancer, lung inflammation and asthma. The aims of this study were to: (i) determine the effect of severe early-onset preeclampsia on placental BRD4 expression; (ii) the effect of loss of BRD4 function by siRNA-targeted knockdown or with the BRD inhibitor JQ1 in human primary trophoblast cells and human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) on TNF-stimulated production of pro-inflammatory mediators, cell adhesion molecules and anti-angiogenic markers and (iii) the effect of BRD4 suppression on placental sFLT1 secretion under hypoxia conditions and in preeclampic placenta. BRD4 mRNA expression was significantly increased (sevenfold) in severe early-onset preeclampsia placenta. BRD4 silencing resulted in a significant reduction in TNF-induced IL6, CXCL8, CCL2, CXCL1 and sFLT1-e15a mRNA expression and IL6, CXCL8, CCL2, CXCL1 and sFLT1 secretion in primary trophoblast and HUVECs. Additionally, JQ1 treatment significantly reduced placental sFLT1 secretion under hypoxic conditions and in preterm preeclamptic placenta. In conclusion, these findings suggest BRD4 may play a central role in propagating inflammation and endothelial dysfunction associated with the pathophysiology of early-onset preeclampsia.

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Ratana Lim, Gillian Barker and Martha Lappas

Preterm birth continues to be the leading cause of neonatal mortality and morbidities that can extend into adult life. Few treatment options stem from our incomplete understanding of the mechanisms of human labour and delivery. Activation of the inflammatory response in gestational tissues by inflammation and/or infection leads to the production of pro-inflammatory and pro-labour mediators, thus preterm birth. Interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) has recently emerged as an important pro-inflammatory transcription factor involved in acute and chronic inflammation. The aims of this study were to determine the expression of IRF5 in human myometrium from labouring and non-labouring women, and whether IRF5 is involved in the genesis of pro-inflammatory and pro-labour mediators induced by pro-inflammatory cytokines or toll-like receptor (TLR) ligands. IRF5 mRNA and protein expression was significantly higher in human myometrium after spontaneous term labour, compared to non-labouring tissues. IRF5 mRNA expression was also significantly higher in primary myometrial cells treated with the pro-inflammatory cytokines IL1B or TNF. In primary myometrial cells, IRF5 knockdown by siRNA (siIRF5) was associated with significantly decreased expression and or secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL1A, IL6), chemokines (CXCL8, CCL2), adhesion molecules (ICAM1, VCAM1) and contraction-associated proteins PTGS2, PGF and PTGFR when in the presence of IL1B, TNF, fsl-1 (TLR2/6 ligand) or flagellin (TLR5 ligand). siIRF5-transfected cells also displayed decreased NF-κB RELA transcriptional activity in the presence of these preterm birth mediators. Our study suggests a novel role for IRF5 in the regulation of the inflammatory response in human myometrium.

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Sarah J Holdsworth-Carson, Michael Permezel, Greg E Rice and Martha Lappas

Approximately 8% of births are complicated by preterm delivery. To improve neonatal outcomes, a greater understanding of the mechanisms surrounding preterm parturition is required. Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs) have been implicated in the regulation of labor at term where they exhibit anti-inflammatory properties. Thus, we hypothesize that dysregulation of PPAR expression and activity may be associated with preterm labor and infection-associated preterm labor. The aim of this study was to compare the expression and activity of PPARs and the expression of retinoid X-receptor α (RXRA) in gestational tissues from term and preterm deliveries, and from infection-associated preterm deliveries. Quantitative RT-PCR, western blotting and activity ELISA were used to study expression and DNA binding profiles. Compared with term, preterm parturition was associated with an increased expression of PPAR δ (PPARD; mRNA and protein), PPAR γ (PPARG; protein) and RXRA (protein) in the placenta and PPARD (mRNA and protein) and RXRA (mRNA) in the choriodecidua. There was, however, no change in preterm PPAR DNA binding activity compared with term. Preterm chorioamnionitis (CAM) demonstrated protein degradation in the choriodecidua and was associated with a decline in the mRNA expression of PPAR α (PPARA) and RXRA compared with uninfected preterm cases. PPAR DNA binding activity increased in the placenta (PPARD and PPARG) and decreased in the amnion (PPARA and PPARG) in association with preterm CAM. In conclusion, idiopathic preterm deliveries were associated with an increase in PPAR:RXR expression and preterm CAM was associated with a decrease in PPAR:RXR expression and tissue-specific alterations in transcriptional activity. The reasons for such dysregulation remain to be determined; however, the data are consistent with the hypothesis that PPARs may play a role in preterm labor and infection-complicated preterm deliveries.