Circulating and Vascular Bioactive Factors during Hypertension in Pregnancy

Alain F Tanbe, Raouf A Khalil
Current Bioactive Compounds 2010 March 1, 6 (1): 60-75
20419111
Normal pregnancy is associated with significant vascular remodeling in the uterine and systemic circulation in order to meet the metabolic demands of the mother and developing fetus. The pregnancy-associated vascular changes are largely due to alterations in the amount/activity of vascular mediators released from the endothelium, vascular smooth muscle and extracellular matrix. The endothelium releases vasodilator substances such as nitric oxide, prostacyclin and hyperpolarizing factor as well as vasoconstrictor factors such as endothelin, angiotensin II and thromboxane A(2). Vascular smooth muscle contraction is mediated by intracellular free Ca(2+) concentration ([Ca(2+)](i)), and [Ca(2+)](i) sensitization pathways such as protein kinase C, Rho-kinase and mitogen-activated protein kinase. Extracellular matrix and vascular remodeling are regulated by matrix metalloproteases. Hypertension in pregnancy and preeclampsia are major complications and life threatening conditions to both the mother and fetus, precipitated by various genetic, dietary and environmental factors. The initiating mechanism of preeclampsia and hypertension in pregnancy is unclear; however, most studies have implicated inadequate invasion of cytotrophoblasts into the uterine artery, leading to reduction in the uteroplacental perfusion pressure and placental ischemia/hypoxia. This placental hypoxic state is thought to induce the release of several circulating bioactive factors such as growth factor inhibitors, anti-angiogenic proteins, inflammatory cytokines, reactive oxygen species, hypoxia-inducible factors, and vascular receptor antibodies. Increases in the plasma levels and vascular content of these factors during pregnancy could cause an imbalance in the vascular mediators released from the endothelium, smooth muscle and extracellular matrix, and lead to severe vasoconstriction and hypertension. This review will discuss the interactions between the various circulating bioactive factors and the vascular mediators released during hypertension in pregnancy, and provide an insight into the current and future approaches in the management of preeclampsia.

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