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This article is part of the supplement: Proceedings of the First and Second European Workshops on Preterm Labour of the Special Non-Invasive Advances in Fetal and Neonatal Evaluation (SAFE) Network of Excellence

Open Access Proceedings

Cyclic AMP signalling pathways in the regulation of uterine relaxation

Wei Yuan and Andrés López Bernal*

Author Affiliations

University of Bristol, Clinical Science at South Bristol (Obstetrics and Gynaecology), St Michael's Hospital and Dorothy Hodgkin Building, Whitson Street, Bristol, BS1 3NY, UK

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2007, 7(Suppl 1):S10  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-7-S1-S10

Published: 1 June 2007

Abstract

Studying the mechanism(s) of uterine relaxation is important and will be helpful in the prevention of obstetric difficulties such as preterm labour, which remains a major cause of perinatal mortality and morbidity. Multiple signalling pathways regulate the balance between maintaining relative uterine quiescence during gestation, and the transition to the contractile state at the onset of parturition. Elevation of intracellular cyclic AMP promotes myometrial relaxation, and thus quiescence, via effects on multiple intracellular targets including calcium channels, potassium channels and myosin light chain kinase. A complete understanding of cAMP regulatory pathways (synthesis and hydrolysis) would assist in the development of better tocolytics to delay or inhibit preterm labour. Here we review the enzymes involved in cAMP homoeostasis (adenylyl cyclases and phosphodiesterases) and possible myometrial substrates for the cAMP dependent protein kinase. We must emphasise the need to identify novel pharmacological targets in human pregnant myometrium to achieve safe and selective uterine relaxation when this is indicated in preterm labour or other obstetric complications.