Parturition is associated with myometrial and cervical inflammation. The causes and consequences of this inflammatory response are not clear. Mast cells (MCs) are important inducers of allergic and non-allergic inflammation, and their secreted products can induce myometrial contractions. Thus, mast cell activation has been hypothesized to have a role in initiating labor and/or driving labor-associated inflammation. We report that small numbers of MCs expressing chymase and tryptase are present in the myometrium and cervix of pregnant women. Labor did not lead to any change in mast cell abundance in these tissues, but was associated with reduced expression of the mast-cell regulator Fc epsilon R1A, indicative of a change in mast cell properties. This coincided with contraction-dependent myocyte production of interleukin-10 (IL-10), a known suppressor of FceR1A expression. MCs were also found in the uterine horn and cervical region of pregnant C57BL/6 mice, increasing in number in the cervix, but not the myometrium, with labor. As expected, these cells were absent from mast-cell-deficient Kit(W-sh) mice. Nonetheless, pregnant Kit(W-sh) mice showed no defects in the timing of labor induction or in the upregulation of leukocyte markers during labor. Thus, MCs are present in the uterus and cervix of humans and mice, and our mouse studies suggest that they do not have a vital role in the induction of labor, or in the promotion of labor-associated inflammation.
- mast cells