The inflammasome has been implicated in the mechanisms that lead to spontaneous labor at term. However, whether the inflammasome is activated in the amniotic cavity of women with clinical chorioamnionitis at term is unknown. Herein, by measuring extracellular ASC [apoptosis-associated speck-like protein containing a C-terminal caspase recruitment domain (CARD)], we investigated whether there is in vivo inflammasome activation in amniotic fluid of patients with clinical chorioamnionitis at term with sterile intra-amniotic inflammation and in those with intra-amniotic infection. This was a retrospective cross-sectional study that included amniotic fluid samples collected from 76 women who delivered after spontaneous term labor with diagnosed clinical chorioamnionitis. Intra-amniotic inflammation was defined as an elevated amniotic fluid interleukin (IL)-6 concentration ≥2.6 ng/mL, and intra-amniotic infection was diagnosed by the presence of microbial invasion of the amniotic cavity (MIAC) accompanied by intra-amniotic inflammation. Patients were classified into the following groups: (1) women without intra-amniotic inflammation or infection (n=16); (2) women with MIAC but without intra-amniotic inflammation (n=5); (3) women with sterile intra-amniotic inflammation (n=15); and (4) women with intra-amniotic infection (n=40). As a readout of in vivo inflammasome activation, extracellular ASC was measured in amniotic fluid by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Acute inflammatory responses in the amniotic fluid and placenta were also evaluated. In clinical chorioamnionitis at term: (1) amniotic fluid concentrations of ASC (extracellular ASC is indicative of in vivo inflammasome activation) and IL-6 were greater in women with intra-amniotic infection than in those without intra-amniotic inflammation, regardless of the presence of MIAC; (2) amniotic fluid concentrations of ASC and IL-6 were also higher in women with sterile intra-amniotic inflammation than in those without intra-amniotic inflammation, regardless of the presence of MIAC; (3) amniotic fluid concentrations of IL-6, but not ASC, were more elevated in women with intra-amniotic infection than in those with sterile intra-amniotic inflammation; (4) a positive and significant correlation was observed between amniotic fluid concentrations of ASC and IL-6; (5) no differences were observed in amniotic fluid ASC and IL-6 concentrations between women with and without MIAC in the absence of intra-amniotic inflammation; (6) women with intra-amniotic infection had elevated white blood cell counts and reduced glucose levels in amniotic fluid compared to the other three study groups; and (7) women with intra-amniotic infection presented higher frequencies of acute maternal and fetal inflammatory responses in the placenta than those with sterile intra-amniotic inflammation. The intra-amniotic inflammatory response, either induced by alarmins or microbes, is characterized by the activation of the inflammasome - as evidenced by elevated amniotic fluid concentrations of extracellular ASC - in women with clinical chorioamnionitis at term. These findings provide insight into the intra-amniotic inflammatory response in women with clinical chorioamnionitis at term.
- amniotic fluid
- danger signals
- interleukin 1β (IL-1β)
- interleukin-6 (IL-6)
- intra-amniotic infection
- microbial invasion of the amniotic cavity (MIAC)
- sterile intra-amniotic inflammation