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Placenta. 2006 Jan;27(1):34-41. Epub 2005 Jan 27.

Maternal cholestasis induces placental oxidative stress and apoptosis. Protective effect of ursodeoxycholic acid.

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Research Unit, University Hospital, University of Salamanca, 37007 Salamanca, Spain.


We have investigated whether maternal obstructive cholestasis during pregnancy (OCP) causes oxidative stress and apoptosis in rat placenta and whether treatment with ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA, i.g., 60 microg/100 g b.wt./day, following complete biliary obstruction on day 14 of pregnancy) has protective effects on this organ. In rats with OCP, increased (15-fold) serum bile acid concentrations (BAs) together with signs of placental oxidative stress (lipid peroxidation and protein carbonylation) were found. The latter were partly prevented by UDCA, even though hypercholanemia was not corrected. Some elements of the antioxidant system (total glutathione content, GSH/GSSG ratio and catalase, glutathione peroxidase, and glutathione-S-transferase--but not glutathione reductase--activities) were impaired in placentas from the OCP group. UDCA treatment partly prevented changes in the antioxidant system. OCP induced an increase in Bax-alpha/Bcl-2 mRNA ratio, as determined by real-time quantitative PCR, suggesting enhanced susceptibility to apoptosis activation through the mitochondria-mediated pathway. Accordingly, the activity of caspase-3, but not caspase-8, was increased in OCP placentas, in which DNA-ladder analysis and TUNEL confirmed the existence of apoptosis. UDCA prevented changes in the Bax-alpha/Bcl-2 mRNA ratio and caspase-3 activity. In conclusion, OCP causes oxidative stress and apoptosis in rat placenta, which can be prevented by treatment with UDCA.

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