Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Robert Sokol MD

Second Advisor

Roberto Romero MD


Premature cervical remodeling/ripening is believed to contribute to preterm delivery (PTD), the leading cause of perinatal morbidity and mortality. Despite considerable research, the causes of term and PTD remain unclear, and there is no effective treatment for PTD. We tested the hypothesis that complement activation plays a role in cervical remodeling and PTD. We studied cervical remodeling at term.

We studied two mouse models of inflammation-induced PTD. The first model was induced by vaginal administration of lipopolysaccharide (LPS)and the second one by administration of progesterone antagonist RU486. Increased cervical C3 deposition and macrophage infiltration and increased serum C3adesArg and C5adesArg levels were observed in both models when compared to gestational age matched controls. A significant increase in collagen degradation, matrix metalloproteinase 9 (MMP-9) activity and tissue distensibility was observed in the cervix in both models. Mice deficient in complement receptor C5a did not show increased MMP-9 activity and cervical remodeling and did not deliver preterm in response to LPS or RU486, suggesting a role for C5aR in the cervical changes that precede PTD. In vitro studies show that macrophages release MMP-9 in response to C5a. Progesterone diminished the amount of C5aR on the macrophages surface, inhibited the release of MMP-9 and prevented PTD. In addition, macrophage depletion also prevented cervical remodeling and PTD in LPS-treated mice. We found that complement activation is not required for the physiological process that leads to term delivery in mice. Neither increased C3 cervical deposition nor increased C3a and C5a serum levels were observed at term. In addition, macrophages infiltration was found in PTD in contrast to term delivery were no leukocytes were found. Despite the different role of complement and different cellular effector cells, PTD and term delivery share a common dowsntream pathway characterized by increased metalloproteinases (MMPs) release and increased collagen degradation. However, different sources of MMPs were identified. Macrophages are the source of MMPs in PTD while cervical fibroblasts and columnar epithelial cells synthesize MMPs at term delivery. A dramatic diminution in serum progesterone levels precedes parturition at term but not in PTD, suggesting that progesterone withdrawal initiates cervical remodeling at term. On the other hand, MMPs release in PTD is triggered by C5a.

Complement inhibition and supplementation with progesterone may be good therapeutic options to prevent this serious pregnancy complication. Preterm and term cervical remodeling occur through the same mechanism but they are initiated by different mediators and effector cells. That complement activation is required for PTD but not for the physiological process that leads to term delivery, suggests that complement is a potential specific biomarker and selective target to prevent PTD and thus avert neonatal mortality and morbidity.