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J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2015;28(14):1621-32. doi: 10.3109/14767058.2014.964676. Epub 2014 Oct 28.

Endocan, a putative endothelial cell marker, is elevated in preeclampsia, decreased in acute pyelonephritis, and unchanged in other obstetrical syndromes.

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a Perinatology Research Branch, Program for Perinatal Research and Obstetrics, Division of Intramural Research, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, NIH , Bethesda , MD (Detroit, MI) , USA .



Endocan, a dermatan sulphate proteoglycan produced by endothelial cells, is considered a biomarker for endothelial cell activation/dysfunction. Preeclampsia is characterized by systemic vascular inflammation, and endothelial cell activation/dysfunction. Therefore, the objectives of this study were to determine whether: (1) plasma endocan concentrations in preeclampsia differ from those in uncomplicated pregnancies; (2) changes in plasma endocan concentration relate to the severity of preeclampsia, and whether these changes are specific or observed in other obstetrical syndromes such as small-for-gestational age (SGA), fetal death (FD), preterm labor (PTL) or preterm prelabor rupture of membranes (PROM); (3) a correlation exists between plasma concentration of endocan and angiogenic (placental growth factor or PlGF)/anti-angiogenic factors (soluble vascular endothelial growth factor receptor or sVEGFR-1, and soluble endoglin or sEng) among pregnancies complicated by preeclampsia; and (4) plasma endocan concentrations in patients with preeclampsia and acute pyelonephritis (both conditions in which there is endothelial cell activation) differ.


This cross-sectional study included the following groups: (1) uncomplicated pregnancy (n = 130); (2) preeclampsia (n = 102); (3) pregnant women without preeclampsia who delivered an SGA neonate (n = 51); (4) FD (n = 49); (5) acute pyelonephritis (AP; n = 35); (6) spontaneous PTL (n = 75); and (7) preterm PROM (n = 64). Plasma endocan concentrations were determined in all groups, and PIGF, sEng and VEGFR-1 plasma concentrations were measured by ELISA in the preeclampsia group.


(1) Women with preeclampsia had a significantly higher median plasma endocan concentration than those with uncomplicated pregnancies (p = 0.004); (2) among women with preeclampsia, the median plasma endocan concentration did not differ significantly according to disease severity (p = 0.1), abnormal uterine artery Doppler velocimetry (p = 0.7) or whether diagnosis was made before or after 34 weeks gestational age (p = 0.3); (3) plasma endocan concentration in women with preeclampsia correlated positively with plasma anti-angiogenic factor concentrations [sVEGFR-1: Spearman rho 0.34, p = 0.001 and sEng: Spearman rho 0.30, p = 0.003]; (4) pregnancies complicated by acute pyelonephritis with bacteremia had a lower median plasma endocan concentration than pregnancies complicated by acute pyelonephritis without bacteremia (p = 0.004), as well as uncomplicated pregnancies (p = 0.001); and (5) there was no significant difference in the median plasma endocan concentration between uncomplicated pregnancies and those complicated by FD, delivery of an SGA neonate, PTL or preterm PROM (other members of the "great obstetrical syndromes"; each p > 0.05).


Median maternal plasma endocan concentrations were higher preeclampsia and lower in acute pyelonephritis with bacteremia than in uncomplicated pregnancy. No significant difference was observed in the median plasma endocan concentration between other great obstetrical syndromes and uncomplicated pregnancies. The difference in the direction of change of endocan in preeclampsia and acute pyelonephritis with bacteremia may be consistent with the view that both disease entities differ in pathogenic mechanisms, despite their associations with systemic vascular inflammation and endothelial cell activation/dysfunction.


Endothelial cell activation; endothelial dysfunction; fetal death; preterm labor; small-for-gestational age; soluble endoglin; soluble vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-1

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