Distinct molecular events suggest different pathways for preterm labor and premature rupture of membranes

Stephen J. Fortunato, Ramkumar Menon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: On a clinical level, the etiologies associated with premature rupture of the membranes and preterm labor are virtually identical, though these conditions end in distinctly different events. This study was designed to determine differences between preterm labor and preterm premature rupture of membranes by using molecular markers of extracellular matrix degradation and apoptosis. STUDY DESIGN: Amniochorion and amniotic fluid samples were collected from gestational age-matched groups of women undergoing cesarean delivery before term. Samples were collected from 2 groups of women, women with premature rupture of membranes and women with preterm labor with no rupture of membranes. Changes in the expression pattern of messenger ribonucleic acid for matrix metalloproteinases (MMP), tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases (TIMP), and pro-apoptotic (p53 and Bax) and anti-apoptotic (Bcl-2) proteins were identified by quantitative polymerase chain reaction. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay was used to determine the levels of these proteins in the amniotic fluid. Multiplex polymerase chain reaction was performed to study the expression of Fas-Fas ligand-associated pro-apoptotic genes. Unpaired nonparametric, 2-tailed Mann-Whitney U test was used to determine statistical significance of quantitative polymerase chain reaction and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (P < .05 was considered significant). RESULTS: Quantitative polymerase chain reaction results demonstrated an increased mRNA expression for MMP2, MMP9, and MT1-MMP and a decreased expression for TIMP2 in prematurely ruptured membranes compared with preterm labor membranes. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay documented increases in the amniotic fluid concentrations of immunoreactive and bioactive MMP2 and MMP9 and immunoreactive MMP3 and a decreased TIMP2 concentration in fluids obtained from the premature rupture of membranes group compared with the preterm labor group. The pro-apoptotic genes p53 and bax were up-regulated in premature rupture of membranes when compared with preterm labor. Anti-apoptotic gene (Bcl-2) expression was increased in preterm labor membranes compared with prematurely ruptured membranes. Interleukin-18 (a pro-apoptotic cytokine) was increased in the amniotic fluid during premature rupture of membranes compared with preterm labor. Prematurely ruptured membranes also demonstrated fragmented deoxyribonucleic acid and expression of Fas and caspase 8 (apoptosis initiator), which were all absent in preterm labor membranes. CONCLUSIONS: We have begun to delineate 2 divergent molecular pathways for premature rupture of membranes and preterm labor. Most likely, this is the beginning of the identification of differences that will become evident with the use of molecular biology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1399-1406
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican journal of obstetrics and gynecology
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Apoptosis
  • Cytokines
  • Fetal membranes
  • Matrix metalloproteinases
  • Premature rupture of membranes
  • Preterm labor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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