Preeclampsia Is Characterized by Placental Complement Dysregulation
Increasing evidence suggests that preeclampsia is associated with complement dysregulation. The origin of complement dysregulation in preeclampsia is unknown, and further unraveling this mechanism could provide both diagnostic tools and therapeutic targets. Because the placenta is believed to play a crucial role in the pathogenesis of preeclampsia, we investigated placentas from preeclamptic women (n=28) and controls (n=44) for the presence of complement activation products. Immunohistochemistry was performed for C1q, mannose-binding lectin, properdin, and C4d. Staining patterns were related to pregnancy outcome. Possible causes of complement activation were investigated, including the presence of immune deposits at the syncytiotrophoblast and changes in the placental mRNA expression of complement regulatory proteins. C4d was rarely present in placentas from healthy controls (3%), whereas it was observed in 50% of placentas obtained from preeclamptic women (P=0.001). In these placentas, C4d was observed in a focal (9/14) or diffuse (5/14) staining pattern at the syncytiotrophoblast. With respect to C1q, mannose-binding lectin, and properdin, no differences were observed between cases and controls. In preeclamptic women, diffuse placental C4d was associated with a significantly lower gestational age at delivery. Furthermore, the mRNA expression of the complement regulatory proteins CD55 and CD59 was significantly upregulated in preeclampsia. In conclusion, there is evidence for increased classical pathway activation and altered complement regulation in preeclampsia. The relation between C4d and lower gestational age at birth suggests that the extent of complement dysregulation is associated with the severity of preeclampsia. Inhibiting excessive complement activation may be a promising therapeutic approach in the management of preeclampsia.
- classical complement pathway
- mannose-binding lectin pathway
- alternative complement pathway
- fetal-maternal interface
- complement regulatory proteins
- Received March 2, 2012.
- Revision received March 26, 2012.
- Accepted August 19, 2012.
- © 2012 American Heart Association, Inc.