American journal of physiology. Regulatory, integrative and comparative physiology

The Dahl salt-sensitive rat is a spontaneous model of superimposed preeclampsia.

PMID 25904684


The mechanisms of the pathogenesis of preeclampsia, a leading cause of maternal morbidity and death worldwide, are poorly understood in part due to a lack of spontaneous animal models of the disease. We hypothesized that the Dahl salt-sensitive (S) rat, a genetic model of hypertension and kidney disease, is a spontaneous model of superimposed preeclampsia. The Dahl S was compared with the Sprague-Dawley (SD) rat, a strain with a well-characterized normal pregnancy, and the spontaneously hypertensive rat (SHR), a genetic model of hypertension that does not experience a preeclamptic phenotype despite preexisting hypertension. Mean arterial pressure (MAP, measured via telemetry) was elevated in the Dahl S and SHR before pregnancy, but hypertension was exacerbated during pregnancy only in Dahl S. In contrast, SD and SHR exhibited significant reductions in MAP consistent with normal pregnancy. Dahl S rats exhibited a severe increase in urinary protein excretion, glomerulomegaly, increased placental hypoxia, increased plasma soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase-1 (sFlt-1), and increased placental production of tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α). The Dahl S did not exhibit the expected decrease in uterine artery resistance during late pregnancy in contrast to the SD and SHR. Dahl S pups and litter sizes were smaller than in the SD. The Dahl S phenotype is consistent with many of the characteristics observed in human superimposed preeclampsia, and we propose that the Dahl S should be considered further as a spontaneous model to improve our understanding of the pathogenesis of superimposed preeclampsia and to identify and test new therapeutic targets for its treatment.