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Placenta. 2013 Nov;34(11):1079-86. doi: 10.1016/j.placenta.2013.06.309. Epub 2013 Jul 20.

Placental ABCA1 and ABCG1 expression in gestational disease: Pre-eclampsia affects ABCA1 levels in syncytiotrophoblasts.

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Swiss National Center of Competence in Research, NCCR TransCure, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland; Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University Hospital, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.



Transplacental feto-maternal lipid exchange through the ATP-binding cassette transporters ABCA1 and ABCG1 is important for normal fetal development. However, only scarce and conflicting data exist on the involvement of these transporters in gestational disease.


Placenta samples (n = 72) derived from common gestational diseases, including pre-eclampsia (PE), HELLP, intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy and gestational diabetes, were assessed for their ABCA1 and ABCG1 expression levels and compared to age-matched control placentas with qRT-PCR and immunohistochemistry. ABCA1 expression was additionally investigated with immunoblot in placental membrane vesicles. Furthermore, placental cholesterol and phospholipid contents were assessed.


ABCA1 mRNA levels differed significantly between preterm and term control placentas (p = 0.0013). They were down-regulated in isolated PE and PE with IUGR (p = 0.0006 and p = 0.0012, respectively), but unchanged in isolated IUGR, isolated HELLP and other gestational diseases compared to gestational age-matched controls. Correspondingly, in PE, ABCA1 protein expression was significantly reduced in the apical membrane of the villous syncytiotrophoblast (p = 0.011) and in villous fetal endothelial cells (p = 0.036). Furthermore, in PE there was a significant increase in the placental content of total and individual classes of phospholipids which were partially correlated with diminished ABCA1 expression. Conversely, ABCG1 mRNA and protein levels were stable in the investigated conditions.


In gestational disease, there is a specific down-regulation of placental ABCA1 expression at sites of feto-maternal lipid exchange in PE. At a functional level, the increase in placental lipid concentrations provides indirect evidence of an impaired transport capacity of ABCA1 in this disease.


ABCA1; ABCG1; IUGR; Placenta; Pre-eclampsia

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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