Matrix metalloprotease-1 and elastase are novel uterotonic agents acting through protease-activated receptor 1

Scott W. Walsh, William H. Nugent, Anna V. Solotskaya, Charles D. Anderson, John R. Grider, Jerome F. Strauss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Matrix metalloproteinase-1 (MMP-1) and neutrophil elastase are proteolytic enzymes involved in tissue remodeling, but a role for them as uterotonic agents has not been considered. However, both these proteases activate protease-activated receptor 1 (PAR-1) that mediates thrombin-induced contractions. Matrix metalloproteinase-1 and elastase are products of neutrophils that infiltrate intrauterine tissues at the time of labor, so we tested the hypothesis that these proteases might be novel uterotonic agents acting via PAR-1. Decidual tissue was collected from fetal membranes of term not-in-labor (TNL), term labor (TL), and preterm labor (PTL) women and analyzed for gene and protein expression of MMP-1 and neutrophil elastase. Contractile effects of MMP-1 and elastase were tested with uterine strips of day 19 and 20 gestation rats. Expression of MMP-1 and neutrophil elastase was increased in TL and PTL as compared to TNL. Expression of both the pro- and active enzymes of MMP-1 increased progressively from TNL to TL to PTL. Tumor necrosis factor-α, a neutrophil product, increased MMP-1 in decidual and myometrial cells. Both MMP-1 and elastase stimulated strong contractions of myometrial strips, which were prevented by inhibition of PAR-1 and inhibition of inositol trisphosphate receptor or calcium channel blockade. Indomethacin did not prevent proteaseinduced contractions. These data suggest that MMP-1 and neutrophil elastase may be important but heretofore unrecognized players in stimulating uterine contractions at the time of labor, and they may explain why indomethacin delays, but does not prevent, PTL because indomethacin inhibits the prostaglandin component but not the protease component of labor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1058-1066
Number of pages9
JournalReproductive Sciences
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Elastase
  • Labor
  • Matrix metalloproteinase-1
  • Neutrophils
  • Protease-activated receptor 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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