Inflammation is associated with preterm birth. We previously described a mouse model of chronic inflammation-induced preterm birth after dental Porphyromonas gingivalis infection. The aim of this study was to employ this model system to investigate the mechanisms through which enhanced uterine contractility induces preterm birth. Messenger RNA (mRNA) encoding contraction-associated proteins, such as oxytocin receptors, was measured at various gestational time points by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Spontaneous and oxytocin-induced uterine contractile activity at gestational day 18 was assessed using a tissue organ bath. The expression levels of Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2), TLR4, cyclooxygenase (COX)-2, nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB) p65, and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) on gestational day 18 were also determined by real-time PCR or Western blotting. Messenger RNA encoding contraction-associated proteins was increased at gestational day 18, and the spontaneous contractile activity (1.6-fold greater area under the contraction curve) and sensitivity to oxytocin (EC50: 8.8 nM vs 2.2 nM) were enhanced in the P gingivalis group compared to those in the control group. In the P gingivalis group, COX-2 mRNA expression was not elevated in the placenta or myometrium but was upregulated 2.3-fold in the fetal membrane. The TLR2 mRNA levels in the fetal membrane were 2.7-fold higher in the P gingivalis group, whereas TLR4 levels were not elevated. Activation of the NF-κB p65 and p38 MAPK pathways was enhanced in the fetal membrane of the P gingivalis group. Thus, in mice with chronic dental P gingivalis infection, TLR2-induced inflammation in the fetal membrane leads to upregulation of uterine contractility, leading to preterm birth.
!!!All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes