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Physiol Genomics. 2011 Nov 21;43(22):1255-62. doi: 10.1152/physiolgenomics.00109.2011. Epub 2011 Sep 27.

Fetal HDL/apoE: a novel regulator of gene expression in human placental endothelial cells.

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Clinic of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Medical University of Graz, Graz, Austria.


Maternal lipoproteins have been studied extensively in human pregnancies, but little is known about the role of fetal lipoproteins. The vascularized human placenta interfaces between the mother and fetus to transfer nutrients for sustaining pregnancy. Unlike that of adults, fetal high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which is in contact with placental vessels, is characterized by a high proportion of apolipoprotein E (apoE). We hypothesize this unique composition of fetal HDL affects key functions of the growing fetal tissues. The aim was to identify genes regulated by apoE-HDL by incubating human placental endothelial cells (HPEC) with either fetal HDL or apoE-rich reconstituted HDL particles (apoE-rHDL). HPEC were exposed to 15 μg/ml fetal HDL, 15 μg/ml apoE-rHDL, or medium for 16 h, respectively. Microarray analysis determined genes regulated by fetal HDL and apoE. Characterization of HDL particles revealed a different hydrodynamic radius for apoE-rHDL (13.70 nm) compared with fetal HDL (18.11 nm). Stepwise gene clustering after microarray experiments identified 79 differentially expressed genes (P < 0.05) when cells were exposed to HDL compared with controls. Among them 16 genes were downregulated, whereas five genes were upregulated by twofold, respectively. When HPEC were incubated with apoE-rHDL 18-fold more genes (1,417, 12% of transcripts) were regulated (P < 0.05) in contrast to HDL. Thereof, 172 genes were downregulated and 376 genes upregulated (twofold). In the common subset of 38 genes regulated by both HDL particles, genes involved in cholesterol biosynthesis and cell protection prevailed. Strikingly, results suggest that HDL has the capability of regulating metallothioneins, which may have an effect on oxidative stress in HPEC.

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