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Balancing the womb
Date:12/21/2011

New research hopes to explain premature births and failed inductions of labour. The study by academics at the University of Bristol suggests a new mechanism by which the level of myosin phosphorylation is regulated in the pregnant uterus.

The researchers, Dr Claire Hudson and Professor Andrs Lpez Bernal in the School of Clinical Sciences and Dr Kate Heesom in the University Proteomics Facility and the School of Biochemistry, have discovered that phosphorylation of uterus proteins at specific amino acids have a key role in the regulation of uterine activity in labour.

A remarkable feature of the uterus (the womb) is that it remains relatively relaxed for the nine months of pregnancy, carrying the baby safely, and then, during labour, it contracts forcibly and the baby is born. A special type of smooth muscle that grows and stretches during pregnancy to accommodate the fetus and the placenta forms the uterus.

Hormones such as oxytocin or prostaglandins promote labour, but the biochemical changes that allow the switch from relaxation to contractions to happen are not fully understood. This makes it difficult to predict when a woman is going to deliver. In eight to ten per cent of women delivery occurs too early (preterm labour, before 37 weeks' gestation) and prematurity is associated with major risks for the baby. On the other hand when labour has to be induced for medical reasons, it is impossible to know whether the induction will be successful or whether it will require an emergency caesarean section with risks for the mother and baby.

Using small biopsies of uterine tissue from women who delivered at St Michael's Hospital, Dr Hudson has demonstrated that contractions require both a calcium dependent pathway driven by myosin kinase and a calcium independent pathway that regulates the activity of myosin phosphatase. Additionally, Dr Hudson has pinpointed precisely the position of the amino acids in myosin and myosin
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Contact: Joanne Fryer
joanne.fryer@bristol.ac.uk
44-117-331-7276
University of Bristol
Source:Eurekalert

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