Intra-Amniotic Soluble Endoglin Impairs Lung Development in Neonatal Rats

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Soluble endoglin (sENG) is increased in the amniotic fluid of women with preeclampsia and chorioamnionitis. Preterm infants born to women with these disorders have an increased risk of aberrant lung development. Whether this increased risk is secondary to elevated sENG levels is unclear. The objective of this study was to determine whether intrauterine exposure to an adenovirus overexpressing sENG impairs neonatal lung angiogenesis by modulating lung endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) signaling. Pregnant Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly assigned to receive ultrasound-guided intra-amniotic injections of adenovirus overexpressing sENG (Ad-sENG) or control adenovirus (Ad-control) on embryonic day 17. After this exposure, rat pups were maintained in normoxia and evaluated on postnatal day 14. Intra-amniotic Ad-sENG decreased lung vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 and eNOS expression in rat pups. This was accompanied by a marked decrease in lung angiogenesis and alveolarization. Ad-sENG-exposed pups also had an increase in right ventricular systolic pressure, weight ratio of right ventricle to left ventricle plus septum, and pulmonary vascular remodeling. In addition, exposure of human pulmonary artery endothelial cells to recombinant sENG reduced endothelial tube formation and protein levels of eNOS, phosphorylated eNOS, and phosphorylated Smad1/5. Together, our findings demonstrate that intrauterine exposure to an adenovirus overexpressing sENG disrupts lung development by impairing Smad1/5-eNOS signaling. We speculate that sENG-mediated dysregulation of Smad1/5-eNOS signaling contributes to impaired lung development and potentially primes the developing lung for further postnatal insults. Further studies exploring the relationship between amniotic fluid sENG levels and preterm respiratory outcomes will be necessary.

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