Oxidative stress promotes cellular damages in the cervix: Implications for normal and pathologic cervical function in human pregnancy

Ourlad Alzeus G. Tantengco, Joy Vink, Paul Mark B. Medina, Ramkumar Menon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A physiologic increase in reactive oxygen species throughout pregnancy is required to remodel the cervix. Oxidative stress can cause cellular damage that contributes to dysfunctional tissue. This study determined the oxidative stress-induced cell fate of human cervical epithelial and cervical stromal cells. We treated the ectocervical and endocervical epithelial cells and cervical stromal cells with cigarette smoke extract, an oxidative stress inducer, for 48 h. Cell viability (crystal violet assay); cell cycle, apoptosis, and necrosis (flow cytometry); senescence (senescence-associated βgalactosidase staining); autophagy (staining for autophagosome protein, microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3B); stress signaler p38 mitogen-activated protein kinases pathway activation (western blot analyses); and inflammation by measuring interleukin-6 (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) were conducted after 48 h of cigarette smoke extract treatment. Oxidative stress induced reactive oxygen species production in cervical cells, which was inhibited by N-acetylcysteine. Oxidative stress promoted cell cycle arrest and induced necrosis in cervical cells. High senescence and low autophagy were observed in cervical stromal cells under oxidative stress. Conversely, senescence was low and autophagy was high in endocervical epithelial cells. Oxidative stress induced p38 mitogen-activated protein kinases (p38MAPK) activation in all cervical cells but only increased interleukin-6 production by the ectocervical epithelial cells. Inhibition of interleukin-6 production by a p38 mitogen-activated protein kinases inhibitor confirmed the activation of an oxidative stress-induced pathway. In conclusion, oxidative stress can promote cell death and sterile inflammation that is mediated by p38 mitogen-activated protein kinases activation in the cellular components of the cervix. These cellular damages may contribute to the normal and premature cervical ripening, which can promote preterm birth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)204-216
Number of pages13
JournalBiology of reproduction
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2021


  • Apoptosis
  • Autophagy
  • Cell death
  • Necrosis
  • Senescence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine


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