Expression of Placental FLT1 Transcript Variants Relates to Both Gestational Hypertensive Disease and Fetal Growth
The recent discovery of additional alternative spliced FLT1 transcripts encoding novel soluble (s)FLT1 protein isoforms complicates both the predictive value and functional implications of sFLT1 in preeclampsia. We investigated FLT1 expression levels and splicing patterns in placentas of normotensive and preeclamptic women, and established the tissue specificity of all FLT1 transcript variants. mRNA levels of sFLT1 splice variants were determined by real-time polymerase chain reaction in 21 normal human tissues and placental biopsies from 91 normotensive and 55 preeclamptic women. Cellular localization of placental FLT1 expression was established by RNA in situ hybridization. Of all tissues investigated, placenta has by far the highest FLT1 mRNA expression level, mainly localized in the syncytiotrophoblast layer. More than 80% of placental transcripts correspond to sFLT1_v2. Compared with normotensive placenta, preeclamptic placenta has ≈3-fold higher expression of all FLT1 transcript variants (P<0.001), with a slight shift in favor of sFLT1_v1. Although to a lesser degree, transcript levels are also increased in placenta from normotensive women that deliver a small for gestational age neonate. We conclude that sFLT isoform–specific assays could potentially improve the accuracy of current sFLT1 assays for the prediction of preeclampsia. However, placental FLT1 transcript levels are increased not only in preeclampsia but also in normotensive pregnancy with a small for gestational age fetus. This may indicate a common pathway involved in the development of both conditions but complicates the use of circulating sFLT1 protein levels for the prediction or diagnosis of preeclampsia alone.
- Received October 18, 2010.
- Revision received November 7, 2010.
- Accepted April 1, 2011.
- © 2011 American Heart Association, Inc.