Women's Health

August 23, 2013

Pregnancy promoter and protector

Alkaline phosphatase enzymes appear to play roles in promoting pregnancy and in protecting the uterus from bacterial infection.

The molecular players that participate in uterine receptivity and implantation – and that protect the uterus from bacterial toxins in general and during pregnancy – are incompletely defined.


Bibhash Paria, Ph.D., associate professor of Pediatrics, and colleagues explored the role of alkaline phosphatase (AP) enzymes in the hamster uterus during estrous cycles and early pregnancy. They report in the journal Reproduction that hamsters express two AP enzymes in uterine epithelial cells and the expression shows cyclic variation, suggesting regulation by steroid hormones. The investigators also found regulated expression patterns for the AP enzymes during implantation and decidualization (the change of the endometrium to support pregnancy). They further demonstrated that the AP enzymes detoxified the endotoxin lipopolysaccharide at their sites of expression, suggesting that they have a role in protecting the uterus against bacterial infection.

The studies raise the possibility that exogenous treatment with an active AP enzyme could prevent uterine infection in general or during pregnancy, and might lower the risk of infection-induced pregnancy loss or defects.

This research was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (HD044741).