Serum podocalyxin is significantly increased in early-onset preeclampsia and may represent a novel marker of maternal endothelial cell dysfunction

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Podocalyxin is a glomerular podocyte protein and increased in urine of preeclampsia. However, podocalyxin is also expressed in endothelial cells of other organs. Here we investigated whether podocalyxin is detectable in pregnant serum and whether the levels are altered in preeclampsia.


Podocalyxin was determined by ELISA in sera collected from normal pregnancy across gestation (n = 44) and from preeclamptic pregnancies at diagnosis (n = 34) with gestation-age-matched controls (n = 68). Immunohistochemistry examined podocalyxin in placentas and in 32 human tissues on a tissue array. Human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) were treated with interleukin (IL)-6 and podocalyxin was analysed by ELISA and western blotting.


Podocalyxin was detected in serum of normal pregnancy, with levels increasing progressively with advancing gestation. Podocalyxin serum levels were significantly elevated in preeclampsia, especially the early-onset subtype. Within the placenta, blood vessels but not trophoblasts expressed podocalyxin, and preeclampsia didn’t differ from controls. Endothelial cells in all 32 human organs examined, as well as HUVECs, expressed podocalyxin. Its levels increased in the conditioned media but decreased in the lysates when HUVECs were treated with IL-6.


Podocalyxin likely derived from maternal endothelial cells is present in pregnant serum and significantly increased in early-onset preeclampsia. Podocalyxin release was stimulated by IL-6 in HUVECs.

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