Gestational hypoxia induces preeclampsia-like symptoms via heightened endothelin-1 signaling in pregnant rats

Jianjun Zhou, Daliao Xiao, Yali Hu, Zhiqun Wang, Alexandra Paradis, Eugenia Mata-Greenwood, Lubo Zhang
Hypertension 2013, 62 (3): 599-607
Preeclampsia is a life-threatening pregnancy disorder. However, its pathogenesis remains unclear. We tested the hypothesis that gestational hypoxia induces preeclampsia-like symptoms via heightened endothelin-1 (ET-1) signaling. Time-dated pregnant and nonpregnant rats were divided into normoxic and hypoxic (10.5% O2 from the gestational day 6-21) groups. Chronic hypoxia had no significant effect on blood pressure or proteinuria in nonpregnant rats but significantly increased blood pressure on day 12 (systolic blood pressure, 111.7 ± 6.1 versus 138.5 ± 3.5 mm Hg; P=0.004) and day 20 (systolic blood pressure, 103.4 ± 4.6 versus 125.1 ± 6.1 mm Hg; P=0.02) in pregnant rats and urine protein (μg/μL)/creatinine (nmol/μL) ratio on day 20 (0.10 ± 0.01 versus 0.20 ± 0.04; P=0.04), as compared with the normoxic control group. This was accompanied with asymmetrical fetal growth restriction. Hypoxia resulted in impaired trophoblast invasion and uteroplacental vascular remodeling. In addition, plasma ET-1 levels, as well as the abundance of prepro-ET-1 mRNA, ET-1 type A receptor and angiotensin II type 1 receptor protein in the kidney and placenta were significantly increased in the chronic hypoxic group, as compared with the control animals. Treatment with the ET-1 type A receptor antagonist, BQ123, during the course of hypoxia exposure significantly attenuated the hypoxia-induced hypertension and other preeclampsia-like features. The results demonstrate that chronic hypoxia during gestation induces preeclamptic symptoms in pregnant rats via heightened ET-1 and ET-1 type A receptor-mediated signaling, providing a molecular mechanism linking gestational hypoxia and increased risk of preeclampsia.

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