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Special Issue "Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Preeclampsia"

A special issue of International Journal of Molecular Sciences (ISSN 1422-0067). This special issue belongs to the section "Molecular Pathology, Diagnostics, and Therapeutics".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 October 2019.

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Berthold Huppertz
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Division of Cell Biology, Histology and Embryology, Gottfried Schatz Research Center, Medical University of Graz
Tel. +43-316-385-71897
Interests: human placenta; pregnancy pathologies: preeclampsia, IUGR; predictive biomarkers

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Despite massive research efforts during recent decades, preeclampsia has remained the syndrome of hypotheses. Today, the etiology of the pathways resulting in the clinical symptoms hypertension and proteinuria still remains obscure. Over time, a number of very promising hypotheses have been developed, but so far not a single hypothesis has been accepted. The current hypotheses range from shallow trophoblast invasion, which is believed to result in placental hypoxia, to defects of the villous trophoblast resulting in the release of necrotic particles affecting the maternal endothelium, to a maternal failure to adapt to the stress test pregnancy. This Special Issue will summarize all hypotheses and will leave it to the readers to identify the most conclusive explanation.

Prof. Dr. Berthold Huppertz
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Published Papers (12 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
Perinatal Micro-Bleeds and Neuroinflammation in E19 Rat Fetuses Exposed to Utero-Placental Ischemia
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20(16), 4051; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms20164051 - 20 Aug 2019
Abstract
Offspring of preeclampsia patients have an increased risk of developing neurological deficits and cognitive impairment. While low placental perfusion, common in preeclampsia and growth restriction, has been linked to neurological deficits, a causative link is not fully established. The goal of this study [...] Read more.
Offspring of preeclampsia patients have an increased risk of developing neurological deficits and cognitive impairment. While low placental perfusion, common in preeclampsia and growth restriction, has been linked to neurological deficits, a causative link is not fully established. The goal of this study was to test the hypothesis that placental ischemia induces neuroinflammation and micro-hemorrhages in utero. Timed-pregnant Sprague Dawley rats were weight-matched for sham surgery (abdominal incision only) or induced placental ischemia (surgical reduction of utero-placental perfusion (RUPP)); n = 5/group on gestational day 14. Fetal brains (n = 1–2/dam/endpoint) were collected at embryonic day (E19). Placental ischemia resulted in fewer live fetuses, increased fetal demise, increased hematocrit, and no difference in brain water content in exposed fetuses. Additionally, increased cerebral micro-bleeds (identified with H&E staining), pro-inflammatory cytokines: IL-1β, IL-6, and IL-18, eotaxin (CCL11), LIX (CXCL5), and MIP-2 (CXCL2) were observed in RUPP-exposed fetuses. Microglial density in the sub-ventricular zone decreased in RUPP-exposed fetuses, with no change in cortical thickness. Our findings support the hypothesis that exposure to placental ischemia contributes to microvascular dysfunction (increased micro-bleeds), fetal brain inflammation, and reduced microglial density in proliferative brain areas. Future studies will determine whether in utero abnormalities contribute to long-term behavioral deficits in preeclampsia offspring through impaired neurogenesis regulation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Preeclampsia)
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Open AccessArticle
Disturbed Cardiorespiratory Adaptation in Preeclampsia: Return to Normal Stress Regulation Shortly after Delivery?
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20(13), 3149; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms20133149 - 27 Jun 2019
Abstract
Women with pregnancies complicated by preeclampsia appear to be at increased risk of metabolic and vascular diseases in later life. Previous research has also indicated disturbed cardiorespiratory adaptation during pregnancy. The aim of this study was to follow up on the physiological stress [...] Read more.
Women with pregnancies complicated by preeclampsia appear to be at increased risk of metabolic and vascular diseases in later life. Previous research has also indicated disturbed cardiorespiratory adaptation during pregnancy. The aim of this study was to follow up on the physiological stress response in preeclampsia several weeks postpartum. A standardized laboratory test was used to illustrate potential deviations in the physiological stress responding to mildly stressful events of the kind and intensity in which they regularly occur in further everyday life after pregnancy. Fifteen to seventeen weeks postpartum, 35 women previously affected by preeclampsia (19 mild, 16 severe preeclampsia), 38 women after uncomplicated pregnancies, and 51 age-matched healthy controls were exposed to a self-relevant stressor in a standardized stress-reactivity protocol. Reactivity of blood pressure, heart rate, stroke index, and systemic vascular resistance index as well as baroreceptor sensitivity were analyzed. In addition, the mutual adjustment of blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration, partitioned for influences of the sympathetic and the parasympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system, were quantified by determining their phase synchronization. Findings indicated moderately elevated blood pressure levels in the nonpathological range, reduced stroke volume, and elevated systemic vascular resistance in women previously affected by preeclampsia. Despite these moderate abnormalities, at the time of testing, women with previous preeclampsia did not differ from the other groups in their physiological response patterns to acute stress. Furthermore, no differences between early, preterm, and term preeclampsia or mild and severe preeclampsia were observed at the time of testing. The findings suggest that the overall cardiovascular responses to moderate stressors return to normal in women who experience a pregnancy with preeclampsia a few weeks after delivery, while the operating point of the arterial baroreflex is readjusted to a higher pressure. Yet, their regulation mechanisms may remain different. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Preeclampsia)
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Open AccessArticle
Preeclampsia is Associated with Sex-Specific Transcriptional and Proteomic Changes in Fetal Erythroid Cells
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20(8), 2038; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms20082038 - 25 Apr 2019
Abstract
Preeclampsia (PE) has been associated with placental dysfunction, resulting in fetal hypoxia, accelerated erythropoiesis, and increased erythroblast count in the umbilical cord blood (UCB). Although the detailed effects remain unknown, placental dysfunction can also cause inflammation, nutritional, and oxidative stress in the fetus [...] Read more.
Preeclampsia (PE) has been associated with placental dysfunction, resulting in fetal hypoxia, accelerated erythropoiesis, and increased erythroblast count in the umbilical cord blood (UCB). Although the detailed effects remain unknown, placental dysfunction can also cause inflammation, nutritional, and oxidative stress in the fetus that can affect erythropoiesis. Here, we compared the expression of surface adhesion molecules and the erythroid differentiation capacity of UCB hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells (HSPCs), UCB erythroid profiles along with the transcriptome and proteome of these cells between male and female fetuses from PE and normotensive pregnancies. While no significant differences were observed in UCB HSPC migration/homing and in vitro erythroid colony differentiation, the UCB HSPC transcriptome and the proteomic profile of the in vitro differentiated erythroid cells differed between PE vs. normotensive samples. Accordingly, despite the absence of significant differences in the UCB erythroid populations in male or female fetuses from PE or normotensive pregnancies, transcriptional changes were observed during erythropoiesis, particularly affecting male fetuses. Pathway analysis suggested deregulation in the mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1/AMP-activated protein kinase (mTORC1/AMPK) signaling pathways controlling cell cycle, differentiation, and protein synthesis. These results associate PE with transcriptional and proteomic changes in fetal HSPCs and erythroid cells that may underlie the higher erythroblast count in the UCB in PE. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Preeclampsia)
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Open AccessArticle
Postnatal Expression Profile of microRNAs Associated with Cardiovascular and Cerebrovascular Diseases in Children at the Age of 3 to 11 Years in Relation to Previous Occurrence of Pregnancy-Related Complications
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20(3), 654; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms20030654 - 02 Feb 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Children descending from pregnancies complicated by gestational hypertension (GH), preeclampsia (PE) or fetal growth restriction (FGR) have a lifelong cardiovascular risk. The aim of the study was to verify if pregnancy complications induce postnatal alterations in gene expression of microRNAs associated with cardiovascular/cerebrovascular [...] Read more.
Children descending from pregnancies complicated by gestational hypertension (GH), preeclampsia (PE) or fetal growth restriction (FGR) have a lifelong cardiovascular risk. The aim of the study was to verify if pregnancy complications induce postnatal alterations in gene expression of microRNAs associated with cardiovascular/cerebrovascular diseases. Twenty-nine microRNAs were assessed in peripheral blood, compared between groups, and analyzed in relation to both aspects, the current presence of cardiovascular risk factors and cardiovascular complications and the previous occurrence of pregnancy complications with regard to the clinical signs, dates of delivery, and Doppler ultrasound examination. The expression profile of miR-21-5p differed between controls and children with a history of uncomplicated pregnancies with abnormal clinical findings. Abnormal expression profile of multiple microRNAs was found in children affected with GH (miR-1-3p, miR-17-5p, miR-20a-5p, miR-21-5p, miR-23a-3p, miR-26a-5p, miR-29a-3p, miR-103a-3p, miR-125b-5p, miR-126-3p, miR-133a-3p, miR-146a-5p, miR-181a-5p, miR-195-5p, and miR-342-3p), PE (miR-1-3p, miR-20a-5p, miR-20b-5p, miR-103a-3p, miR-133a-3p, miR-342-3p), and FGR (miR-17-5p, miR-126-3p, miR-133a-3p). The index of pulsatility in the ductus venosus showed a strong positive correlation with miR-210-3p gene expression in children exposed to PE and/or FGR. Any of changes in epigenome (up-regulation of miR-1-3p and miR-133a-3p) that were induced by pregnancy complications are long-acting and may predispose children affected with GH, PE, or FGR to later development of cardiovascular/cerebrovascular diseases. Novel epigenetic changes (aberrant expression profile of microRNAs) appeared in a proportion of children that were exposed to GH, PE, or FGR. Screening of particular microRNAs may stratify a highly risky group of children that might benefit from implementation of early primary prevention strategies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Preeclampsia)
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Review

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Open AccessReview
Molecular Targets of Aspirin and Prevention of Preeclampsia and Their Potential Association with Circulating Extracellular Vesicles during Pregnancy
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20(18), 4370; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms20184370 - 05 Sep 2019
Abstract
Uncomplicated healthy pregnancy is the outcome of successful fertilization, implantation of embryos, trophoblast development and adequate placentation. Any deviation in these cascades of events may lead to complicated pregnancies such as preeclampsia (PE). The current incidence of PE is 2–8% in all pregnancies [...] Read more.
Uncomplicated healthy pregnancy is the outcome of successful fertilization, implantation of embryos, trophoblast development and adequate placentation. Any deviation in these cascades of events may lead to complicated pregnancies such as preeclampsia (PE). The current incidence of PE is 2–8% in all pregnancies worldwide, leading to high maternal as well as perinatal mortality and morbidity rates. A number of randomized controlled clinical trials observed the association between low dose aspirin (LDA) treatment in early gestational age and significant reduction of early onset of PE in high-risk pregnant women. However, a substantial knowledge gap exists in identifying the particular mechanism of action of aspirin on placental function. It is already established that the placental-derived exosomes (PdE) are present in the maternal circulation from 6 weeks of gestation, and exosomes contain bioactive molecules such as proteins, lipids and RNA that are a “fingerprint” of their originating cells. Interestingly, levels of exosomes are higher in PE compared to normal pregnancies, and changes in the level of PdE during the first trimester may be used to classify women at risk for developing PE. The aim of this review is to discuss the mechanisms of action of LDA on placental and maternal physiological systems including the role of PdE in these phenomena. This review article will contribute to the in-depth understanding of LDA-induced PE prevention. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Preeclampsia)
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Open AccessReview
Angiogenesis, Lymphangiogenesis, and the Immune Response in South African Preeclamptic Women Receiving HAART
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20(15), 3728; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms20153728 - 30 Jul 2019
Abstract
Purpose of the review: This review highlights the role of angiogenesis, lymphangiogenesis, and immune markers in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-associated preeclamptic (PE) pregnancies in an attempt to unravel the mysteries underlying the duality of both conditions in South Africa. Recent findings: Studies demonstrate [...] Read more.
Purpose of the review: This review highlights the role of angiogenesis, lymphangiogenesis, and immune markers in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-associated preeclamptic (PE) pregnancies in an attempt to unravel the mysteries underlying the duality of both conditions in South Africa. Recent findings: Studies demonstrate that HIV-infected pregnant women develop PE at a lower frequency than uninfected women. In contrast, women receiving highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART) are more inclined to develop PE, stemming from an imbalance of angiogenesis, lymphangiogenesis, and immune response. Summary: In view of the paradoxical effect of HIV infection on PE development, this study examines angiogenesis, lymphangiogenesis, and immune markers in the highly HIV endemic area of KwaZulu-Natal. We believe that HAART re-constitutes the immune response in PE, thereby predisposing women to PE development. This susceptibility is due to an imbalance in the angiogenic/lymphangiogenic/immune response as compared to normotensive pregnant women. Further large-scale studies are urgently required to investigate the effect of the duration of HAART on PE development. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Preeclampsia)
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Open AccessReview
Role of the Monocyte–Macrophage System in Normal Pregnancy and Preeclampsia
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20(15), 3695; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms20153695 - 28 Jul 2019
Abstract
The proper functioning of the monocyte–macrophage system, an important unit of innate immunity, ensures the normal course of pregnancy. In this review, we present the current data on the origin of the monocyte–macrophage system and its functioning in the female reproductive system during [...] Read more.
The proper functioning of the monocyte–macrophage system, an important unit of innate immunity, ensures the normal course of pregnancy. In this review, we present the current data on the origin of the monocyte–macrophage system and its functioning in the female reproductive system during the ovarian cycle, and over the course of both normal and complicated pregnancy. Preeclampsia is a crucial gestation disorder characterized by pronounced inflammation in the maternal body that affects the work of the monocyte–macrophage system. The effects of inflammation at preeclampsia manifest in changes in monocyte counts and their subset composition, and changes in placental macrophage counts and their polarization. Here we summarize the recent data on this issue for both the maternal organism and the fetus. The influence of estrogen on macrophages and their altered levels in preeclampsia are also discussed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Preeclampsia)
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Open AccessReview
Preeclampsia: The Relationship between Uterine Artery Blood Flow and Trophoblast Function
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20(13), 3263; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms20133263 - 02 Jul 2019
Abstract
Maternal uterine artery blood flow is critical to maintaining the intrauterine environment, permitting normal placental function, and supporting fetal growth. It has long been believed that inadequate transformation of the maternal uterine vasculature is a consequence of primary defective trophoblast invasion and leads [...] Read more.
Maternal uterine artery blood flow is critical to maintaining the intrauterine environment, permitting normal placental function, and supporting fetal growth. It has long been believed that inadequate transformation of the maternal uterine vasculature is a consequence of primary defective trophoblast invasion and leads to the development of preeclampsia. That early pregnancy maternal uterine artery perfusion is strongly associated with placental cellular function and behaviour has always been interpreted in this context. Consistently observed changes in pre-conceptual maternal and uterine artery blood flow, abdominal pregnancy implantation, and late pregnancy have been challenging this concept, and suggest that abnormal placental perfusion may result in trophoblast impairment, rather than the other way round. This review focuses on evidence that maternal cardiovascular function plays a significant role in the pathophysiology of preeclampsia. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Preeclampsia)
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Open AccessReview
Galectin 13 (PP13) Facilitates Remodeling and Structural Stabilization of Maternal Vessels during Pregnancy
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20(13), 3192; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms20133192 - 29 Jun 2019
Abstract
Galectins regulate cell growth, proliferation, differentiation, apoptosis, signal transduction, mRNA splicing, and interactions with the extracellular matrix. Here we focus on the galectins in the reproductive system, particularly on a group of six galectins that first appears in anthropoid primates in conjunction with [...] Read more.
Galectins regulate cell growth, proliferation, differentiation, apoptosis, signal transduction, mRNA splicing, and interactions with the extracellular matrix. Here we focus on the galectins in the reproductive system, particularly on a group of six galectins that first appears in anthropoid primates in conjunction with the evolution of highly invasive placentation and long gestation. Of these six, placental protein 13 (PP13, galectin 13) interacts with glycoproteins and glycolipids to enable successful pregnancy. PP13 is related to the development of a major obstetric syndrome, preeclampsia, a life-threatening complication of pregnancy which affects ten million pregnant women globally. Preeclampsia is characterized by hypertension, proteinuria, and organ failure, and is often accompanied by fetal loss and major newborn disabilities. PP13 facilitates the expansion of uterine arteries and veins during pregnancy in an endothelial cell-dependent manner, via the eNOS and prostaglandin signaling pathways. PP13 acts through its carbohydrate recognition domain that binds to sugar residues of extracellular and connective tissue molecules, thus inducing structural stabilization of vessel expansion. Further, decidual PP13 aggregates may serve as a decoy that induces white blood cell apoptosis, contributing to the mother’s immune tolerance to pregnancy. Lower first trimester PP13 level is one of the biomarkers to predict the subsequent risk to develop preeclampsia, while its molecular mutations/polymorphisms that are associated with reduced PP13 expression are accompanied by higher rates of preeclampsia We propose a targeted PP13 replenishing therapy to fight preeclampsia in carriers of these mutations. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Preeclampsia)
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Open AccessReview
The Role of Epigenetics in Placental Development and the Etiology of Preeclampsia
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20(11), 2837; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms20112837 - 11 Jun 2019
Abstract
In this review, we comprehensively present the function of epigenetic regulations in normal placental development as well as in a prominent disease of placental origin, preeclampsia (PE). We describe current progress concerning the impact of DNA methylation, non-coding RNA (with a special emphasis [...] Read more.
In this review, we comprehensively present the function of epigenetic regulations in normal placental development as well as in a prominent disease of placental origin, preeclampsia (PE). We describe current progress concerning the impact of DNA methylation, non-coding RNA (with a special emphasis on long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) and microRNA (miRNA)) and more marginally histone post-translational modifications, in the processes leading to normal and abnormal placental function. We also explore the potential use of epigenetic marks circulating in the maternal blood flow as putative biomarkers able to prognosticate the onset of PE, as well as classifying it according to its severity. The correlation between epigenetic marks and impacts on gene expression is systematically evaluated for the different epigenetic marks analyzed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Preeclampsia)
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Open AccessReview
The Role of Nitric Oxide, ADMA, and Homocysteine in The Etiopathogenesis of Preeclampsia—Review
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20(11), 2757; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms20112757 - 05 Jun 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Preeclampsia is a serious, pregnancy-specific, multi-organ disease process of compound aetiology. It affects 3–6% of expecting mothers worldwide and it persists as a leading cause of maternal and foetal morbidity and mortality. In fact, hallmark features of preeclampsia (PE) result from vessel involvement [...] Read more.
Preeclampsia is a serious, pregnancy-specific, multi-organ disease process of compound aetiology. It affects 3–6% of expecting mothers worldwide and it persists as a leading cause of maternal and foetal morbidity and mortality. In fact, hallmark features of preeclampsia (PE) result from vessel involvement and demonstrate maternal endothelium as a target tissue. Growing evidence suggests that chronic placental hypoperfusion triggers the production and release of certain agents that are responsible for endothelial activation and injury. In this review, we will present the latest findings on the role of nitric oxide, asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA), and homocysteine in the etiopathogenesis of preeclampsia and their possible clinical implications. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Preeclampsia)
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Open AccessReview
Current Understanding of Autophagy in Pregnancy
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20(9), 2342; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms20092342 - 11 May 2019
Abstract
Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved process in eukaryotes to maintain cellular homeostasis under environmental stress. Intracellular control is exerted to produce energy or maintain intracellular protein quality controls. Autophagy plays an important role in embryogenesis, implantation, and maintenance of pregnancy. This role includes [...] Read more.
Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved process in eukaryotes to maintain cellular homeostasis under environmental stress. Intracellular control is exerted to produce energy or maintain intracellular protein quality controls. Autophagy plays an important role in embryogenesis, implantation, and maintenance of pregnancy. This role includes supporting extravillous trophoblasts (EVTs) that invade the decidua (endometrium) until the first third of uterine myometrium and migrate along the lumina of spiral arterioles under hypoxic and low-nutrient conditions in early pregnancy. In addition, autophagy inhibition has been linked to poor placentation—a feature of preeclamptic placentas—in a placenta-specific autophagy knockout mouse model. Studies of autophagy in human placentas have revealed controversial results, especially with regard to preeclampsia and gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). Without precise estimation of autophagy flux, wrong interpretation would lead to fixed tissues. This paper presents a review of the role of autophagy in pregnancy and elaborates on the interpretation of autophagy in human placental tissues. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Preeclampsia)
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