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Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2006 Dec;195(6):1636-45. Epub 2006 Sep 7.

Serum and urine inhibin A but not free activin A are endocrine biomarkers of severe pre-eclampsia.

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Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520-8063, USA.



Elevation of total serum inhibin A and activin A has been interpreted as evidence of placental dysfunction in women who develop pre-eclampsia. We sought to evaluate serum and urine levels of inhibin A and free activin A in normal and hypertensive pregnancies.


Inhibin A and free activin A were measured by immunoassay in simultaneously collected serum and urine samples from 75 women: (1) severe pre-eclampsia (n = 30); (2) mild pre-eclampsia (n = 11); (3) chronic hypertension (n = 9); (4) pregnant control women (n = 16); and (5) nonpregnant control women (n = 9). Urine levels were normalized to milligrams urine creatinine, and fractional excretions were calculated.


Serum and urine inhibin A were increased and fractional excretion was decreased in pregnancy. Serum, urine, and fractional excretion of inhibin A were increased in severe pre-eclampsia, compared with other gravidas. The only difference observed in free activin A was a decrease in serum free activin A in chronic hypertension, compared with severe pre-eclampsia and pregnant control women. Urine inhibin A showed the greatest discrimination between severe pre-eclampsia and pregnant control women: a cut-off of 45 pg/mg urine creatinine had 96.8% sensitivity, 87.5% specificity, and 93.6% accuracy. Women with urine inhibin A greater than 90 pg/mg urine creatinine had a 17-fold relative risk (95% confidence interval 9.7-459.5) of a clinically indicated delivery due to pre-eclampsia.


Serum and urine levels of inhibin A are altered in severe pre-eclampsia. Urine inhibin A may have application in the diagnosis and management of pre-eclampsia. Those with chronic hypertension have lower serum but not urine free activin A levels, compared with severe pre-eclampsia and mild pre-eclampsia.

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