Imbalance in mitochondrial dynamics and apoptosis in pregnancies among HIV-infected women on HAART with obstetric complications

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HIV infection and HAART trigger genetic and functional mitochondrial alterations leading to cell death and adverse clinical manifestations. Mitochondrial dynamics enable mitochondrial turnover and degradation of damaged mitochondria, which may lead to apoptosis.


To evaluate markers of mitochondrial dynamics and apoptosis in pregnancies among HIV-infected women on HAART and determine their potential association with obstetric complications.


This controlled, single-site, observational study without intervention included 26 HIV-infected pregnant women on HAART and 18 control pregnancies and their newborns. Maternal PBMCs and neonatal cord blood mononuclear cells (CBMCs) were isolated at the first trimester of gestation and at delivery. The placenta was homogenized at 5% w/v. Mitochondrial dynamics, fusion events [mitofusin 2 (Mfn2)/β-actin] and fission events [dynamin-related protein 1 (Drp1/β-actin)] and apoptosis (caspase 3/β-actin) were assessed by western blot analysis.


Obstetric complications were significantly more frequent in pregnancies among HIV-infected women [OR 5.00 (95% CI 1.21–20.70)]. Mfn2/β-actin levels in PBMCs from controls significantly decreased during pregnancy (202.13±57.45%), whereas cases maintained reduced levels from the first trimester of pregnancy and no differences were observed in CBMCs. Mfn2/β-actin and Drp1/β-actin contents significantly decreased in the placenta of cases. Caspase 3/β-actin levels significantly increased during pregnancy in PBMCs of cases (50.00±7.89%), remaining significantly higher than in controls. No significant differences in caspase 3/β-actin content of neonatal CBMCs were observed, but there was a slight increased trend in placenta from cases.


HIV- and HAART-mediated mitochondrial damage may be enhanced by decreased mitochondrial dynamics and increased apoptosis in maternal and placental compartments but not in the uninfected fetus. However, direct effects on mitochondrial dynamics and implication of apoptosis were not demonstrated in adverse obstetric outcomes.

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