Impaired autophagy by soluble endoglin, under physiological hypoxia in early pregnant period, is involved in poor placentation in preeclampsia.

PMID 23321791


In early pregnancy, trophoblasts and the fetus experience hypoxic and low-nutrient conditions; nevertheless, trophoblasts invade the uterine myometrium up to one third of its depth and migrate along the lumina of spiral arterioles, replacing the maternal endothelial lining. Here, we showed that autophagy, an intracellular bulk degradation system, occurred in extravillous trophoblast (EVT) cells under hypoxia in vitro and in vivo. An enhancement of autophagy was observed in EVTs in early placental tissues, which suffer from physiological hypoxia. The invasion and vascular remodeling under hypoxia were significantly reduced in autophagy-deficient EVT cells compared with wild-type EVT cells. Interestingly, soluble endoglin (sENG), which increased in sera in preeclamptic cases, suppressed EVT invasion by inhibiting autophagy. The sENG-inhibited EVT invasion was recovered by TGFB1 treatment in a dose-dependent manner. A high dose of sENG inhibited the vascular construction by EVT cells and human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs), meanwhile a low dose of sENG inhibited the replacement of HUVECs by EVT cells. A protein selectively degraded by autophagy, SQSTM1, accumulated in EVT cells in preeclamptic placental biopsy samples showing impaired autophagy. This is the first report showing that impaired autophagy in EVT contributes to the pathophysiology of preeclampsia.

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