In chorioamnionitis, intra-amniotic infections render the amniotic fluid an adverse environment for the fetus and increase the risk of fetal mortality and morbidity. It remains unclear how infection crosses the amniotic barrier, which is made up of tight junctions (TJs). In this study, we investigated whether amniotic TJs are disrupted in inflammatory conditions such as chorioamnionitis. Amniotic TJs were disrupted by single applications of interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-6, tumour necrosis factor-α(TNF-α), and prostaglandin E2. In organ-cultured amniotic membranes, these inflammatory mediators decreased the claudin-3 and claudin-4 levels at the apical junction at different times. Injecting IL-6 into the amniotic cavity concurrently induced the disruption of amniotic TJs by decreasing the claudin-3 and claudin-4 levels at the apical junction, and the dysfunction of the amniotic barrier; in contrast, injecting TNF-α weakened the amniotic barrier by inducing apoptosis of the amniotic epithelial cells, with no decrease in claudin-3 and claudin-4 at the apical junction. Furthermore, inflammation in the amniotic membrane, which was induced by the administration of lipopolysaccharide to pregnant mice, concurrently caused dysfunction of the amniotic barrier and disruption of TJs, involving the decrease of claudin-3 and claudin-4 levels at the apical junction and apoptosis in the amniotic epithelium. These results indicate that the adverse effects of the inflammatory mediators on amniotic TJs cause severe dysfunction of the amniotic barrier.Chorioamnionitis increases the risk of mortality and morbidity in newborn infants because of amniotic fluid infection. However, the mechanism by which this infection crosses the amniotic barrier and spreads into the amniotic fluid remains unclear. In this study, we have shown that inflammation weakens the amniotic barrier and that this effect is induced by inflammatory mediators, such as interleukin-1β, interleukin-6, tumour necrosis factor-α, and prostaglandin E2, in distinctly different ways. Knowledge of the mechanism underlying the weakening of the amniotic barrier aids in increasing our understanding of the mechanism underlying antenatal infection.
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