Amnion is the innermost layer of the fetal membrane and has been suggested to regulate the volume of amniotic fluid via the amniotic epithelium. The transepithelial pathway is generally restricted by tight junctions (TJs). Thus far, human amniotic TJs have not been identified. In this study, we determined whether the human amniotic epithelium contains TJs. Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and western blotting analyses showed that the human amniotic epithelium has TJ components, such as occludin, ZO-1, and at least 2 types of claudins, i.e., claudin-4 and claudin-7. The TJ components were found to localize in the lateral membranes and cytoplasm at 35 weeks of gestation; these components disappeared from the lateral membrane at 37 weeks of gestation. Organ culturing of the amnion at 37 weeks gestation induced the relocalization of the TJ proteins from the cytoplasm to the lateral membranes. Furthermore, in cultured amniotic epithelial cells, dexamethasone induced the downregulation of the protein expression of TJs. These findings suggest that the human amniotic epithelium has TJs that disrupt during late pregnancy. The disruption may be induced by several factors such as glucocorticoids present in the amniotic fluid during late pregnancy.
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