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Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2011 Apr;300(4):H1182-93. doi: 10.1152/ajpheart.01108.2010. Epub 2011 Jan 14.

[Ca2+]i signaling vs. eNOS expression as determinants of NO output in uterine artery endothelium: relative roles in pregnancy adaptation and reversal by VEGF165.

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Perinatal Research Laboratories, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA.


Pregnancy is a time of greatly increased uterine blood flow to meet the needs of the growing fetus. Increased uterine blood flow is also observed in the follicular phase of the ovarian cycle. Simultaneous fura-2 and 4,5-diaminofluoresceine (DAF-2) imaging reveals that cells of the uterine artery endothelium (UA Endo) from follicular phase ewes produce marginally more nitric oxide (NO) in response to ATP than those from luteal phase. However, this is paralleled by changes in NO in response to ionomycin, suggesting this is solely due to higher levels of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) protein in the follicular phase. In contrast, UA Endo from pregnant ewes (P-UA Endo) produces substantially more NO (4.62-fold initial maximum rate, 2.56-fold overall NO production) in response to ATP, beyond that attributed to eNOS levels alone (2.07-fold initial maximum rate, 1.93-fold overall with ionomycin). The ATP-stimulated intracellular free calcium concentration ([Ca(2+)](i)) response in individual cells of P-UA Endo comprises an initial peak followed by transient [Ca(2+)](i) bursts that are limited in the luteal phase, not altered in the follicular phase, but are sustained in pregnancy and observed in more cells. Thus pregnancy adaptation of UA Endo NO output occurs beyond the level of eNOS expression and likely through associated [Ca(2+)](i) cell signaling changes. Preeclampsia is a condition of a lack of UA Endo adaptation and poor NO production/vasodilation and is associated with elevated placental VEGF(165). While treatment of luteal NP-UA Endo and P-UA Endo with VEGF(165) acutely stimulates a very modest [Ca(2+)](i) and NO response, subsequent stimulation of the same vessel with ATP results in a blunted [Ca(2+)](i) and an associated NO response, with P-UA Endo reverting to the response of luteal NP-UA Endo. This demonstrates the importance of adaptation of cell signaling over eNOS expression in pregnancy adaptation of uterine endothelial function and further implicates VEGF in the pathophysiology of preeclampsia.

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