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Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2008 Feb;294(2):H541-50. Epub 2007 Nov 30.

Pathophysiology of hypertension during preeclampsia: linking placental ischemia with endothelial dysfunction.

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  • 1Department of Physiology and Biophysics, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, MS 39216-4505, USA.


Studies over the last decade have provided exciting new insights into potential mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of preeclampsia. The initiating event in preeclampsia is generally regarded to be placental ischemia/hypoxia, which in turn results in the elaboration of a variety of factors from the placenta that generates profound effects on the cardiovascular system. This host of molecules includes factors such as soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase-1, the angiotensin II type 1 receptor autoantibody, and cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha, which generate widespread dysfunction of the maternal vascular endothelium. This dysfunction manifests as enhanced formation of factors such as endothelin, reactive oxygen species, and augmented vascular sensitivity to angiotensin II. Alternatively, the preeclampsia syndrome may also be evidenced as decreased formation of vasodilators such as nitric oxide and prostacyclin. Taken together, these alterations cause hypertension by impairing renal pressure natriuresis and increasing total peripheral resistance. Moreover, the quantitative importance of the various endothelial and humoral factors that mediate vasoconstriction and elevation of arterial pressure during preeclampsia remains to be elucidated. Thus identifying the connection between placental ischemia/hypoxia and maternal cardiovascular abnormalities in hopes of revealing potential therapeutic regimens remains an important area of investigation and will be the focus of this review.

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