Novel circulating placental markers prokineticin-1, soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase-1, soluble endoglin and placental growth factor and association with late miscarriage

C N Jayasena, A Abbara, A N Comninos, S Narayanaswamy, J Gonzalez Maffe, C Izzi-Engbeaya, J Oldham, T T M Lee, Z Sarang, Z Malik, M K Dhanjal, C Williamson, L Regan, S R Bloom, W S Dhillo
Human Reproduction 2016, 31 (12): 2681-2688

STUDY QUESTION: Are novel circulating placental markers prokineticin-1 (PK-1), soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase-1 (sFlt-1), soluble endoglin (sEng) and placental growth factor (PlGF) associated with late miscarriage in asymptomatic first trimester pregnant women?

SUMMARY ANSWER: Increased serum sFlt-1 or PlGF, but not sEng or PK-1, were significantly associated with reduced miscarriage risk after adjustment for age, BMI, gestational age, smoking and blood pressure.

WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: Abnormal placental development is observed in two-thirds of miscarriages. Identifying women at high risk of late miscarriage could help diagnose potentially treatable causes of miscarriage such as infection, thrombosis or immunological disease. Recently, the circulating placental markers PK-1, sFlt-1, sEng and PlGF have been identified; however, it is not known if circulating levels of these markers are associated with late miscarriage.

STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: A single-centre observational cohort study with prospectively collected data was carried out at a tertiary care centre 2010-2012, in 993 asymptomatic pregnant women. Plasma PK-1, and serum sEng, sFlt-1 and PlGF were measured once in each patient during the antenatal booking visit, and pregnancy outcome was monitored prospectively. Less than 1% of patients were lost to follow-up. Multiples of median (MOM) levels were calculated to adjust for gestational age.

PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: Nine-hundred and ninety-three asymptomatic pregnant women attending antenatal clinic for a routine booking antenatal appointment were recruited to the study, of whom 12 were lost to follow-up and excluded from analysis. Of the cohort, 50 of the remaining 981 women suffered late miscarriage.

MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: Gestation-adjusted sEng, sFlt-1 and PlGF levels were 11% (P < 0.01), 36% (P < 0.001) and 30% (P < 0.001), respectively, lower in women who later suffered miscarriage compared with unaffected pregnancies, while PK-1 did not differ significantly. Logistic regression modelling suggested that increased sFlt-1 (odds ratio (OR) 0.15 95% confidence interval [0.08-0.26], P = 0.0001) and PlGF (OR 0.02 [0.01-0.05], P = 0.0001), but not sEng, were associated with reduced miscarriage risk after adjustment for age, BMI, gestational age, smoking and blood pressure. The combination of sFlt-1 and PlGF did not improve the diagnostic accuracy beyond the use of sFlt-1.

LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: First trimester levels of sFlt-1 and PlGF, but not sEng or PK-1, were associated with late miscarriage risk in asymptomatic women. However, a new prospective study is now required to investigate the utility of these markers to predict early (<10 weeks) and late miscarriage, as well as to predict other complications of pregnancy.

WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: Our data suggest that circulating sFlt-1 and PlGF, but not sEng or PK-1, are independently associated with late miscarriage risk in asymptomatic pregnant women attending their antenatal visit. Therefore, sFlt-1 and PlGF may represent novel markers of placental viability. These data further our understanding of placental function, and have important potential implications for utilizing novel hormonal markers to detect adverse clinical outcomes during pregnancy.

STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTERESTS: The authors have no competing interests. The Section of Investigative Medicine is funded by grants from the MRC, BBSRC, NIHR, an Integrative Mammalian Biology (IMB) Capacity Building Award, an FP7-HEALTH-2009-241592 EuroCHIP grant and is supported by the NIHR Imperial Biomedical Research Centre Funding Scheme. This project was funded by an NIHR grant (reference: CDF-2009-02-05). The following authors are also funded as follows: CNJ is supported by an NIHR Clinical Lectureship and AMS/ Wellcome Starter Grant for Clinical Lecturers. AA and ANC are supported by NIHR academic clinical lectureships. CI-E is supported by an Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust Charity Research Fellowship. WSD is supported by an NIHR Career Development Fellowship.


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