In vivo experiments reveal the good, the bad and the ugly faces of sFlt-1 in pregnancy Academic Article uri icon


  • Objective Soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase (sFlt)-1-e15a, a primate-specific sFlt-1-isoform most abundant in the human placenta in preeclampsia, can induce preeclampsia in mice. This study compared the effects of full-length human (h)sFlt-1-e15a with those of truncated mouse (m)sFlt-1(1-3) used in previous preeclampsia studies on pregnancy outcome and clinical symptoms in preeclampsia. Methods Mice were injected with adenoviruses or fiber-mutant adenoviruses overexpressing hsFlt-1-e15a, msFlt-1(1-3) or control GFP under the CMV or CYP19A1 promoters on gestational day 8 (GD8) and GD11. Placentas and pups were delivered by cesarean section, and dams were monitored postpartum. Blood pressure was telemetrically recorded. Urine samples were collected with cystocentesis and examined for albumin/creatinine ratios. Tissue specimens were evaluated for transgene as well as endogenous mFlt-1 and msFlt-1-i13 expression. H&E-, Jones- and PAS-stained kidney sections were histopathologically examined. Placental GFP expression and aortic ring assays were investigated with confocal microscopy. Results Mean arterial blood pressure (MAP) was elevated before delivery in hsFlt-1-e15a-treated mice compared to controls (GD18: ΔMAP = 7.8 mmHg, p = 0.009), while ΔMAP was 12.8 mmHg (GD18, p = 0.005) in msFlt-1(1-3)-treated mice. Urine albumin/creatinine ratio was higher in hsFlt-1-e15a-treated mice than in controls (GD18, p = 0.04; PPD8, p = 0.03), and msFlt-1(1-3)-treated mice had marked proteinuria postpartum (PPD8, p = 4×10−5). Focal glomerular changes were detected in hsFlt-1-e15a and msFlt-1(1-3)-treated mice. Aortic ring microvessel outgrowth was decreased in hsFlt-1-e15a (p = 0.007) and msFlt-1(1-3)-treated (p = 0.02) mice. Full-length msFlt-1-i13 expression was unique for the placenta. In hsFlt-1-e15a-treated mice, the number of pups (p = 0.046), total weight of living pups (p = 0.04) and maternal weights (p = 0.04) were higher than in controls. These differences were not observed in truncated msFlt-1(1-3)-treated mice. Conclusions Truncated msFlt-1(1-3) simulated the preeclampsia-promoting effects of full-length hsFlt-1. MsFlt-1(1-3) had strong effect on maternal endothelium but not on placentas and embryos. In contrast, hsFlt-1-e15a induced preeclampsia-like symptoms; however, it also increased litter size. In accord with the predominant placental expression of hsFlt-1-e15a and msFlt-1-i13, full-length sFlt-1 may have a role in the regulation of embryonic development. These observations point to the difference in the biological effects of full-length and truncated sFlt-1 and the changes in the effect of full-length sFlt-1 during pregnancy, and may have important implications in the management of preeclampsia.

publication date

  • January 1, 2014