Inhibiting trophoblast PAR-1 overexpression suppresses sFlt-1-induced anti-angiogenesis and abnormal vascular remodeling: a possible therapeutic approach for preeclampsia

Yin Zhao, YanFang Zheng, XiaoXia Liu, QingQing Luo, Di Wu, XiaoPing Liu, Li Zou
Molecular Human Reproduction 2018 March 1, 24 (3): 158-169

STUDY QUESTION: Is it possible to improve vascular remodeling by inhibiting the excessive expression of protease-activated receptor 1 (PAR-1) in trophoblast of abnormal placenta?

SUMMARY ANSWER: Inhibition of trophoblast PAR-1 overexpression may promote placental angiogenesis and vascular remodeling, offering an alternative therapeutic approach for preeclampsia.

WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: PAR-1 is high-affinity receptor of thrombin. Thrombin increases sFlt-1 secretion in trophoblast via the activation of PAR-1. It is reported that the expression of both thrombin and PAR-1 expression are increased in placentas of preeclampsia patients compared with normal placentas.

STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: Trophoblast cells were transfected with PAR-1 short hairpin RNA (shRNA) or PAR-1 overexpression plasmids in vitro. Tube formation assays and a villus-decidua co-culture system were used to study the effect of PAR-1 inhibition on placental angiogenesis and vascular remodeling, respectively. Placentas from rats with preeclampsia were transfected with PAR-1 shRNA to confirm the effect of inhibiting PAR-1 overexpression in placenta.

PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: The trophoblast cell line HTR-8/SVneo was transfected with PAR-1 shRNA or PAR-1 overexpression plasmids. After 48 h, supernatant was collected and the level of sFlt-1 secretion was measured by ELISA. Human umbilical cord epithelial cells and a villus-decidua co-culture system were treated with conditioned media to study the effect of PAR-1 inhibition on tube formation and villi vascular remodeling. A preeclampsia rat model was established by intraperitoneal injection of L-NAME. Plasmids were injected into the placenta of the preeclampsia rats and systolic blood pressure was measured on Days 15 and 19. The effect of different treatments was evaluated by proteinuria, placental weights, fetal weights and fetal numbers in study and control groups. The level of serum sFlt-1 in rats with preeclampsia was also measured. Changes in the placenta microvessels were studied by histopathological staining.

MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: PAR-1 shRNA inhibited PAR-1 expression and significantly suppressed sFlt-1 expression in trophoblasts. Soluble Flt-1 level in the supernatant was suppressed by PAR-1 inhibition plasmid transfection and increased by PAR-1 overexpression plasmids (46.93 ± 5.22 vs. 25.21 ± 4.18 vs. 67.84 ± 3.58 ng/ml, P < 0.01). Tube formation assays showed that conditioned media from shPAR-1 transfected cells resulted in an increase in the total number of branching points compared with that of blank controls (P < 0.05). The villus-decidua co-culture system confirmed down-regulation of PAR-1 was conducive to angiogenesis and vascular remodeling. Transfecting placenta with PAR-1 shRNA plasmids improved placental vascular development and ameliorated the symptoms of preeclampsia in rats. After treatment with shRNA, blood pressure was controlled (140.83 ± 1.08 vs. 123.6 ± 1.47 mmHg, P < 0.001) and proteinuria levels were decreased (4.48 ± 0.36 vs. 2.64 ± 0.25 μg/μl, P < 0.01). sFlt-1 protein levels were significantly higher in preeclampsia group than in the control group (1.44 ± 0.33 vs. 2.92 ± 0.85 ng/ml, P < 0.001), but was reduced (0.92 ± 0.06 ng/ml, vs. PE, P < 0.001) in the treatment group. The histopathological changes of the placental microvessels showed that in the preeclampsia group, the number of blood vessels was reduced, while in treatment group, the placental microvasculature was improved (P < 0.001).


LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: Despite our promising results, the evaluation of kidney damage was studied only by proteinuria measurement. Histochemistry of kidney damage will be supplemented in a further study.

WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: The data showed that inhibition of trophoblast PAR-1 overexpression may promote placental angiogenesis and vascular remodeling, potentially offering an alternative therapeutic approach for preeclampsia.

STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S): This work was supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 81100442 and 81771605 for Y.Z. and 81179584 for L.Z.) and the Hubei Province Health and Family Planning Scientific Research Project (Grant No. WJ2017 M093 for Y.Z.). The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.

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