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Hum Reprod. 1997 Jan;12(1):167-72.

Endothelial nitric oxide synthase in placental villous tissue from normal, pre-eclamptic and intrauterine growth restricted pregnancies.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, OH 45267, USA.


Nitric oxide (NO) regulates blood flow in the human placenta. As increased resistance to blood flow is seen in the fetal-placental vasculature in pregnancies complicated by pre-eclampsia and/or intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), we examined expression of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) in these placentas. Placental villous tissue sections were obtained from normotensive control (n = 5), IUGR alone (n = 5) or pre-eclamptic (with or without IUGR (n = 9) patients, immunostained for eNOS and scored for localization, type (punctate or diffuse) and intensity of eNOS staining in syncytiotrophoblast and placental vessels. The significance of differences was calculated using the Mann-Whitney U-test. No differences in intensity or type of immunostaining in syncytiotrophoblast were seen. Placentas from patients with pre-eclampsia with or without IUGR had a significantly more basal distribution of eNOS in syncytiotrophoblast. eNOS immunostaining was absent in terminal villous capillary and faint in stem villous vessel endothelium of normal placentas, but was intense in the endothelium of both of these types of vessels in the IUGR and pre-eclampsia groups, with significantly greater staining seen in stem vessels of patients with IUGR alone. This increased eNOS expression and hence increased NO production in the fetal-placental vasculature may be an adaptive response to the increased resistance and poor perfusion in these pathological pregnancies.

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