Year of Publication


Document Type





Pharmaceutical Sciences

First Advisor

Charles D. Loftin


Transition of the cardiopulmonary circulation at birth requires functional closure of the ductus arteriosus (DA). The DA is an arterial shunt that is vital in the fetus for diverting the pulmonary circulation away from the uninflated lungs. Failure of the vessel to functionally close after birth is known as patent DA, which is the second most common congenital heart disease. Patent DA may seriously compromise neonatal health and current pharmacological treatments are often limited by serious complications or a significant failure rate, thereby increasing the necessity for surgical intervention. Recently, we were the first to show that genetic or pharmacological inactivation of cyclooxygenase (COX) -2 produces postnatal patent DA in mice. We also demonstrated that the DA expresses high levels of COX-2 during normal closure after birth, suggesting novel contractile actions of COX-2-dependent prostanoids in the DA. In humans, patent DA is more common in preterm infants than those born at full-term, however, mechanism(s) responsible for the reduced DA closure have not been identified. In the current studies, we examined COX-1 and COX-2 expression in the DA at multiple stages of gestation to determine whether alterations in the expression of these enzymes contribute to patent DA in preterm mice. Using real-time PCR, analysis of the time-course of COX-2 mRNA in the fetal mouse DA indicated that COX-2 expression significantly increased with advancing gestational age. The preterm (day 17.5) neonatal mouse DA showed attenuated COX-2 expression, as compared to the full-term (day 19.5) neonatal DA at 3 hours after birth. Furthermore, the DA of preterm neonatal mice showed incomplete closure after 3 hours of birth, a time-point when the DA of full-term neonates was completely remodeled. These data indicate a correlation between reduced DA closure and attenuated COX-2 expression. Additionally, COX-2 expression was significantly attenuated in the DA of mice deficient in the prostanoid receptor EP4, which also show a patent DA phenotype, suggesting the importance of this receptor for the induction of COX-2 required for DA closure. Overall, these studies suggest that attenuated expression of COX-2 may contribute to increased patent DA at preterm gestation.