This study obtained visual evidence of novel cellular and extracellular matrix–level structural alterations in term and preterm human fetal amniochorionic membranes. Amniochorions were collected from term cesarean (not in labor) or vaginal (labor) deliveries, preterm premature rupture of membranes, and spontaneous preterm birth. To determine the effect of oxidative stress on membranes at term or preterm labor, term not in labor samples in an organ explant culture in vitro were exposed to cigarette smoke extract. Tissues were imaged using multiphoton autofluorescence and second harmonic generation microscopy. Images were analyzed using ImageJ and IMARIS software. Three-dimensional microscopic analysis of membranes revealed microfractures that were characterized by amnion cell puckering, basement membrane degradation, and tunnels that extended into the collagen matrix with migrating cells. Numbers of microfractures were similar at term regardless of labor status; however, morphometric measures (width and depth) were higher in term labor membranes. Oxidative stress induced higher numbers of microfractures in term not in labor membranes, with morphometry resembling that seen in term labor membranes. Preterm premature rupture of the membranes had the highest number of microfractures compared to membranes from term and other preterm births. Microfractures are structural alterations indicative of areas of tissue remodeling during gestation. Their increase at preterm and in response to oxidative stress may indicate failure to reseal, predisposing membranes to rupture.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine