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Placenta. 1998 Nov;19(8):581-6.

Placental mitochondria as a source of oxidative stress in pre-eclampsia.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond 23298-0034, USA.


Pre-eclampsia is a hypertensive disorder of human pregnancy that is a leading cause of premature delivery and fetal growth retardation. It is characterized by hypertension, reduced uteroplacental blood flow, proteinuria and oedema. Pre-eclampsia is associated with increased lipid peroxidation in the maternal circulation and in the placenta. Mitochondria are sources of oxygen radicals and are enriched with polyunsaturated fatty acids that are susceptible to peroxidation. Therefore, the mitochondria could be an important source of oxidative stress and lipid peroxidation. To study this, the level of lipid peroxidation in the mitochondrial fraction of placentae obtained from normally pregnant women (n=8) and women with pre-eclampsia (n=8) was examined. Placental tissues were homogenized and the mitochondrial fraction was isolated by ultracentrifugation. Mitochondrial lipid peroxides were estimated by malondialdehyde (MDA). NADPH and Fe++ were used to stimulate lipid peroxidation. Superoxide dismutase (SOD) was used to inhibit superoxide radicals and mannitol to inhibit hydroxyl radicals. The following results were found: (1) MDA levels were significantly greater in the mitochondrial fraction isolated from pre-eclamptic placentae than from normal placentae (27.4+/-3.0 versus 17.0+/-1.8 nmol/g tissue, mean+/-s.e., P<0.05); (2) the oxidative potential of the pre-eclamptic mitochondrial fraction was also higher than normal as evidenced by the significantly greater stimulation of lipid peroxidation by NADPH and Fe+ + (248+/-25 versus 164+/-35 nmol/g, P<0.05); (3) superoxide dismutase, but not mannitol, attenuated the lipid peroxidation induced by NADPH and Fe+ + demonstrating that superoxide is the radical responsible for mitochondrial lipid peroxidation in this system; and (4) the amount of mitochondrial protein was 47 per cent greater and the activity of the mitochondrial enzyme, citrate synthase, was 56 per cent greater in the pre-eclamptic placentae indicating an increase in the amount of mitochondria in the pre-eclamptic placentae. It is concluded that: (1) mitochondrial lipid peroxidation is increased in pre-eclampsia; (2) the amount of placental mitochondria is increased in pre-eclampsia; (3) placental mitochondria contribute to the abnormal increase in lipid peroxidation that occurs in pre-eclamptic placentae by both an increase in their amount and an increase in their susceptibility to oxidation; and (4) mitochondrial generation of superoxide could be an important source of oxidative stress in pre-eclampsia.

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