EG-VEGF is an angiogenic factor that we identified as a new placental growth factor during human pregnancy. EG-VEGF is also expressed in the mouse fetal membrane (FM) by the end of gestation, suggesting a local role for this protein in the mechanism of parturition. However, injection of EG-VEGF to gravid mice did not induce labor, suggesting a different role for EG-VEGF in parturition. Here, we searched for its role in the FM in relation to human parturition. Human pregnant sera and total FM, chorion, and amnion were collected during the second and third trimesters from preterm no labor, term no labor, and term labor patients. Primary human chorion trophoblast and FM explants cultures were also used. We demonstrate that circulating EG-VEGF increased toward term and significantly decreased at the time of labor. EG-VEGF production was higher in the FM compared to placentas matched for gestational age. Within the FM, the chorion was the main source of EG-VEGF. EG-VEGF receptors, PROKR1 and PROKR2, were differentially expressed within the FM with increased expression toward term and an abrupt decrease with the onset of labor. In chorion trophoblast and FM explants collected from nonlaboring patients, EG-VEGF decreased metalloproteinase-2 and -9 activities and increased PGDH (prostaglandin-metabolizing enzyme) expression. Altogether these data demonstrate that EG-VEGF is a new cytokine that acts locally to ensure FM protection in late pregnancy. Its fine contribution to the initiation of human labor is exhibited by the abrupt decrease in its levels as well as a reduction in its receptors.
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Vol. 91 • No. 3