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Microvasc Res. 2008 Jan;75(1):1-8. Epub 2007 May 6.

Molecular mechanisms of preeclampsia.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, 330 Brookline Avenue, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


Preeclampsia is a major cause of maternal, fetal and neonatal mortality worldwide. The mechanisms that initiate preeclampsia in humans have been elusive, but some parts of the puzzle have begun to come together. A key discovery in the field was the realization that its major phenotypes, such as hypertension and proteinuria, are due to excess circulating soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase-1 (sFlt-1, also referred to as sVEGFR-1). sFlt-1 is an endogenous anti-angiogenic protein that is made by the placenta and acts by neutralizing the pro-angiogenic proteins vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and placental growth factor (PlGF). More recently, soluble endoglin, another circulating anti-angiogenic protein was found to synergize with sFlt-1 and contribute to the pathogenesis of preeclampsia. Abnormalities in these circulating angiogenic proteins are not only present during clinical preeclampsia, but also antedate clinical symptoms by several weeks. This review will summarize our current understanding of the molecular mechanism of preeclampsia, with an emphasis on the recently characterized circulating anti-angiogenic proteins.

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