Remodeling of the cervix is a critical early component of parturition and resembles an inflammatory process. Infiltration and activation of myeloid immune cells along with production of proinflammatory mediators and proteolytic enzymes are hypothesized to regulate cervical remodeling as pregnancy nears term. The present study standardized an approach to assess resident populations of immune cells and phenotypic markers of functional activities related to the mechanism of extracellular matrix degradation in the cervix in preparation for birth. Analysis of cells from the dispersed cervix of mice that were nonpregnant or pregnant (Days 15 and 18 postbreeding) by multicolor flow cytometry indicated increased total cell numbers with pregnancy as well as increased numbers of macrophages, the predominant myeloid cell, by Day 18, the day before birth. The number of activated macrophages involved in matrix metalloproteinase induction (CD147) and signaling for matrix adhesion (CD169) significantly increased by the day before birth. Expression of the adhesion markers CD54 and CD11b by macrophages decreased in the cervix by Day 18 versus that on Day 15 or in nonpregnant mice. The census of cells that expressed the migration marker CD62L was unaffected by pregnancy. The data suggest that remodeling of the cervix at term in mice is associated with recruitment and selective activation of macrophages that promote extracellular matrix degradation. Indices of immigration and activities by macrophages may thus serve as markers for local immune cell activity that is critical for ripening of the cervix in the final common mechanism for parturition at term.
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Vol. 87 • No. 5