Caspase-1 Activation is Increased with Human Labour in Foetal Membranes and Myometrium and Mediates Infection-Induced Interleukin-1β Secretion


  • Martha Lappas

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Melbourne, Heidelberg, Vic., Australia
    2. Mercy Perinatal Research Centre, Mercy Hospital for Women, Heidelberg, Vic., Australia
    • Correspondence

      Martha Lappas, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Melbourne, Mercy Hospital for Women, Level 4/163 Studley Road, Heidelberg, 3084 Vic., Australia.


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Interleukin-1β (IL-1β) is a pro-inflammatory cytokine that is involved in human parturition, especially in the context of infection-induced preterm birth. Caspase-1 is a key component of inflammasomes, which are activated upon infection to trigger the maturation of IL-1β.

Method of study

To determine the effect of human labour on caspase-1 activation in human foetal membranes and myometrium. In addition, the mechanisms by which inflammasome activation regulates IL-1β production were also be assessed.


Higher caspase-1 gene and protein expression were detected in foetal membranes myometrium obtained from term labouring women when compared with samples taken from non labouring women. Lipopolysaccharide induced the transcription and secretion of IL-1β from foetal membranes and myometrium; both events were dependent on nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB). However, levels of extracellular IL-1β were greatly increased by subsequent treatment with the potassium-proton ionophore Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) or nigericin; an effect that was dependent on active caspase-1. Additionally, ATP induced IL-1β secretion via the purinergic P2X7 receptor, whereas the pannexin-1 channel was required for nigericin induced IL-1β secretion.


Taken together, these results demonstrate that caspase-1 activation is increased with human labour in foetal membranes and myometrium, and is required for infection-induced IL-1β secretion.