Problem: Nitric oxide (NO), an important mediator of the inflammatory response, is involved in several reproductive processes including pregnancy and labor. Uterus, placenta and fetal membranes are significant sources of NO. Presently, there is no information on factors regulating NO production by fetal membranes.
Method of study: Human fetal membranes at term gestation were cultured for 24 hr in the presence of oxytocin. The concentrations of NO metabolites nitrites in culture medium were determined by the Griess reaction. The presence of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) was determined by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction and Western blot.
Results: Oxytocin increased nitrite release by fetal membranes. Messenger ribonucleic acid iNOS expression was also enhanced by oxytocin. These effects were more marked in tissues obtained after labor than before labor.
Conclusions: Oxytocin exerts an overall stimulatory effect on NO release by fetal membranes. This action might be of relevance in the biomolecular processes leading to parturition.