Preeclampsia Downregulates MicroRNAs in Fetal Endothelial Cells: Roles of miR-29a/c-3p in Endothelial Function

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Preeclampsia is a leading cause of fetal and maternal morbidity and mortality during pregnancy. Although the etiology of preeclampsia is unknown, preeclampsia offspring have increased risks of developing cardiovascular disorders in adulthood, implicating that preeclampsia programs fetal vasculature in utero.


We hypothesize that preeclampsia alters expression profiles of endothelial microRNAs (miRNAs) in fetal endothelial cells and disturbs the vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGFA)- and fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF2)-induced endothelial function.

Design and Setting:

Unpassaged (P0) human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) were isolated immediately after cesarean-section delivery from normotensive (NT) and preeclamptic (PE) pregnancies. Differentially expressed miRNAs between P0-HUVECs from NT and PE pregnancies were identified using a miRNA polymerase chain reaction (PCR) array and confirmed using reverse transcription quantitative PCR. To determine the function of these differentially expressed miRNAs, miRNAs of interest were knocked down in NT-HUVECs following by cell functional assays.


Sixteen miRNAs, including miR-29a/c-3p, were downregulated in P0-HUVECs from the PE group compared with the NT group. Bioinformatics analysis predicted the PI3K-v-akt murine thymoma viral oncogene homolog 1 (AKT) signaling pathway was dysregulated in P0-HUVECs from the PE group, which was associated with the miR-29a/c-3p downregulation. We further demonstrated that miR-29a/c-3p knockdown inhibited the VEGFA- and FGF2-induced endothelial migration as well as FGF2-induced AKT1 phosphorylation in HUVECs. However, miR-29a/c-3p knockdown did not alter the extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 phosphorylation, cell proliferation, and endothelial monolayer integrity in response to VEGFA and FGF2 in HUVECs.


Preeclampsia-downregulated miR-29a/c-3p may impair fetal endothelial function by disturbing the FGF2-activated PI3K-AKT signaling pathway, hence inhibiting endothelial cell migration.

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