The changes in the mechanical integrity of the cervix during pregnancy have implications for a successful delivery. Cervical collagens are known to remodel extensively in mice with progressing gestation leading to a soft cervix at term. During this process, mature crosslinked collagens are hypothesized to be replaced with immature less crosslinked collagens to facilitate cervical softening and ripening. To determine the mechanical role of collagen crosslinks during normal mouse cervical remodeling, tensile load-to-break tests were conducted for the following time points: nonpregnant (NP), gestation day (d) 6, 12, 15, 18 and 24 hr postpartum (PP) of the 19-day gestation period. Immature crosslinks (HLNL and DHLNL) and mature crosslinks (DPD and PYD) were measured using ultra performance liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry (UPLC-ESI-MS/MS). There were no significant changes in the total immature crosslink density (HLNL+ DHLNL mol per collagen mol) throughout normal mouse gestation (range: 0.31-0.49). Total mature crosslink density (PYD+ DPD mol per collagen mol) decreased significantly in early softening from d6 to d15 (d6: 0.17, d12: 0.097, d15: 0.026) and did not decrease with further gestation. The maturity ratio (total mature to total immature crosslinks) significantly decreased in early softening from d6 to d15 (d6: 0.2, d15: 0.074). All of the measured crosslinks correlated significantly with a measure of tissue stiffness and strength, with the exception of the immature crosslink HLNL. This data provides quantitative evidence to support the hypothesis that as mature crosslinked collagens decline, they are replaced by immature collagens to facilitate increased tissue compliance in the early softening period from d6 to d15.
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© 2014 Yoshida et al.