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Immunology - Obstetrics - Physiology

Expression of Cystathionine ß-synthase and Cystathionine ?-lyase in Human Pregnant Myometrium and Their Roles in the Control of Uterine Contractility
Published: Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Author: Xing-Ji You et al.

by Xing-Ji You, Chen Xu, Jian-Qiang Lu, Xiao-Yan Zhu, Lu Gao, Xiao-Rui Cui, Yuan Li, Hang Gu, Xin Ni


Human uterus undergoes distinct molecular and functional changes during pregnancy and parturition. Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) has recently been shown to play a key role in the control of smooth muscle tension. The role of endogenous H2S produced locally in the control of uterine contractility during labour is unknown.

Methodology/Principal Findings

Human myometrium biopsies were obtained from pregnant women undergoing cesarean section at term. Immunohistochemistry analysis showed that cystathionine-?-lyase (CSE) and cystathionine-ß-synthetase (CBS), the principle enzymes responsible for H2S generation, were mainly localized to smooth muscle cells of human pregnant myometrium. The mRNA and protein expression of CBS as well as H2S production rate were down-regulated in labouring tissues compared to nonlabouring tissues. Cumulative administration of L-cysteine (10-7–10-2 mol/L), a precursor of H2S, caused a dose-dependent decrease in the amplitude of spontaneous contractions in nonlabouring and labouring myometrium strips. L-cysteine at high concentration (10-3 mol/L) increased the frequency of spontaneous contractions and induced tonic contraction. These effects of L-cysteine were blocked by the inhibitors of CBS and CSE. Pre-treatment of myometrium strips with glibenclamide, an inhibitor of ATP-sensitive potassium (KATP) channels, abolished the inhibitory effect of L-cysteine on spontaneous contraction amplitude. The effects of L-cysteine on the amplitude of spontaneous contractions and baseline muscle tone were less potent in labouring tissues than that in nonlabouring strips.


H2S generated by CSE and CBS locally exerts dual effects on the contractility of pregnant myometrium. Expression of H2S synthetic enzymes is down-regulated during labour, suggesting that H2S is one of the factors involved in the transition of pregnant uterus from quiescence to contractile state after onset of parturition.