In vitro selenium supplementation suppresses key mediators involved in myometrial activation and rupture of fetal membranes†
Spontaneous preterm birth, which can affect up to 20% of all pregnancies, is the greatest contributor to perinatal morbidity and mortality. Infection is the leading pathological cause of spontaneous preterm birth. Infection activates the maternal immune system, resulting in the upregulation of pro-inflammatory and pro-labor mediators that activate myometrial contractions and rupture of fetal membranes. Anti-inflammatory agents therefore have the potential for the prevention of spontaneous preterm birth. Selenium, an essential micronutrient, has been shown to be a potent anti-inflammatory regulator. Notably, clinical and epidemiological studies have suggested a link between selenium and preterm birth. Thus, the aim of this study was to assess the effect of selenite (an inorganic form of selenium) on the expression of pro-inflammatory and pro-labor mediators in human gestational tissues. Human fetal membranes and myometrium were pre-incubated with or without selenite before incubation with the bacterial product lipopolysaccharide (LPS) to stimulate inflammation associated with preterm birth. Selenite blocked LPS-induced expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines and enzymes involved in remodelling of myometrium and degradation of fetal membranes. Of note, selenite also suppressed myometrial activation induced by inflammation as evidenced by a decrease in LPS-induced prostaglandin signalling and myometrial cell contractility. These effects of selenite were mediated by the MAPK protein ERK as selenite blunted LPS induced activation of ERK. In conclusion, selenite suppresses key mediators involved in inflammation induced activation of mediators involved in active labor in human fetal membranes and myometrium. These findings support recent clinical studies demonstrating selenium supplementation is associated with decreased incidence of spontaneous preterm birth.