The aim of the present study was to investigate the effect of omeprazole, an H+-K+-ATPase inhibitor, in myometrial smooth muscle strips from women undergoing elective caesarean section at term. Isolated myometrial strips taken with informed consent were obtained from eight pregnant women undergoing elective caesarean section at term (not in labour) and mounted in organ baths for recording of isometric tension. We recorded the effect of increasing concentrations of omeprazole on spontaneous and Ca2+-induced contractions of myometrial smooth muscle and on contractions of myometrial smooth muscle pretreated with indomethacin (3x10(-6) M) and L-NAME (3 x 10(-5) M). Omeprazole (10(-4)-10(-3) M) decreased the amplitude and frequency of spontaneous contractions in a time- and concentration-dependent manner in all myometrial smooth muscle isolated from pregnant women. The decrease in amplitude of contractions in myometrial smooth muscle reached statistical significance beginning from the concentration of 3 x 10(-4) M, Addition of indomethacin (3 x 10(-6) M) and L-NAME (3x10(-5) M) in to the organ baths 30 min before did not change relaxation responses to omeprazole. When 8 mM Ca2+-precontracted in Ca2+-free medium myometrial smooth muscle were exposed to increasing concentrations of omeprazole (10(-5)-10(-3) M), omeprazole produced relaxation responses in a time- and concentration-dependent manner, reaching statistical significance at 10(-4) M. These results show: (1) omeprazole time- and concentration-dependently decreased spontaneous contractile activity in myometrial smooth muscle isolated from pregnant women, (2) omeprazole-induced relaxations was not influenced by indomethacin and NG-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME), suggesting that it is not mediated by cyclooxygenase products and nitric oxide, and (3) omeprazole brought about time- and concentration-dependently relaxation of myometrial smooth muscle precontracted by 8 mM Ca2+ in Ca2+-free medium. This effect of omeprazole may be due to blockade of the calcium channels. (C) 2001 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.