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Preeclampsia (PE) is a pregnancy syndrome characterized by new-onset hypertension and end-organ dysfunction. The pathophysiology of PE remains undetermined, but it is thought that maternal vascular dysfunction plays a central role, potentially due, in part, to the release of syncytiotrophoblast-derived extracellular vesicles (STBEVs) into the maternal circulation by a dysfunctional placenta. STBEVs from normal pregnancies (NP) impair vascular function, but the effect of PE STBEVs (known to differ in composition with elevated circulating levels) on vascular function are not known. We hypothesized that PE STBEVs have more detrimental effects on vascular function compared to NP STBEVs. STBEVs were collected by perfusion of placentas from women with NP or PE. Mesenteric arteries from pregnant rats were incubated overnight with NP or PE STBEVs, and vascular function was assessed by wire myography. NP and PE STBEVs impaired endothelial function, partially by reducing nitric oxide (NO) bioavailability. Incubation of human umbilical vein endothelial cells with NP and PE STBEVs increased NF-κB activation, reactive oxygen species, nitrotyrosine levels, and reduced NO levels. However, PE STBEVs increased NF-κB activation and nitrotyrosine levels to a lesser extent than NP STBEVs. Taken together, no greater impact of PE STBEVs compared to NP STBEVs on endothelial function was found. However, the impaired vascular function by PE STBEVs and increased levels of STBEVs in PE suggest PE STBEVs may contribute to maternal vascular dysfunction in PE. Our study further expands on the potential mechanisms that lead to adverse outcomes in PE and provides potential targets for future interventions.

Original publication




Journal article


Bioscience reports

Publication Date



University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.