Peripheral lymphocytes from healthy pregnant women secrete a mediator protein named the progesterone-induced blocking factor (PIBF) that exerts an immunomodulatory function and contributes to the maintenance of pregnancy in mice. The gene coding for PIBF mRNA has been cloned and sequenced, and now the recombinant human protein is available. The aim of this study was to develop an ELISA test for determining PIBF concentrations in biological samples of pregnant women. We determined urinary PIBF concentrations of 86 healthy nonpregnant individuals and from almost 500 pregnant women by ELISA. During normal pregnancy, the concentration of PIBF continuously increased until the 37th gestational week and was followed by a sharp decrease after the 41st week of gestation. In pathological pregnancies, urinary PIBF levels failed to increase. The onset of labor was predictable on the basis of this test, whether it was term or preterm delivery. In urine of patients with preeclampsia, PIBF concentrations were significantly lower than in normal pregnancy and showed a correlation with the number of symptoms presented. These data, in line with previous in vivo findings, suggest that PIBF production is a characteristic feature of normal pregnancy, and determination of PIBF concentration in urine might be of use for the diagnosis of threatened premature pregnancy termination.
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