Characterisation of cardiac health in the reduced uterine perfusion pressure model and a 3D cardiac spheroid model, of preeclampsia

Claire Richards, Kimberly Sesperez, Michael Chhor, Sahar Ghorbanpour, Claire Rennie, Clara Liu Chung Ming, Chris Evenhuis, Valentina Nikolic, Natasa Karadzov Orlic, Zeljko Mikovic, Milan Stefanovic, Zoran Cakic, Kristine McGrath, Carmine Gentile, Kristen Bubb, Lana McClements

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Background: Preeclampsia is a dangerous cardiovascular disorder of pregnancy that leads to an increased risk of future cardiovascular and metabolic disorders. Much of the pathogenesis and mechanisms involved in cardiac health in preeclampsia are unknown. A novel anti-angiogenic protein, FKBPL, is emerging as having a potential role in both preeclampsia and cardiovascular disease (CVD). Therefore, in this study we aimed to characterise cardiac health and FKBPL regulation in the rat reduced uterine perfusion pressure (RUPP) and a 3D cardiac spheroid model of preeclampsia. Methods: The RUPP model was induced in pregnant rats and histological analysis performed on the heart, kidney, liver and placenta (n ≥ 6). Picrosirius red staining was performed to quantify collagen I and III deposition in rat hearts, placentae and livers as an indicator of fibrosis. RT-qPCR was used to determine changes in Fkbpl, Icam1, Vcam1, Flt1 and Vegfa mRNA in hearts and/or placentae and ELISA to evaluate cardiac brain natriuretic peptide (BNP45) and FKBPL secretion. Immunofluorescent staining was also conducted to analyse the expression of cardiac FKBPL. Cardiac spheroids were generated using human cardiac fibroblasts and human coronary artery endothelial cells and treated with patient plasma from normotensive controls, early-onset preeclampsia (EOPE) and late-onset preeclampsia (LOPE); n = 3. FKBPL and CD31 expression was quantified by immunofluorescent labelling. Results: The RUPP procedure induced significant increases in blood pressure (p < 0.001), collagen deposition (p < 0.001) and cardiac BNP45 (p < 0.05). It also induced a significant increase in cardiac FKBPL mRNA (p < 0.05) and protein expression (p < 0.01). RUPP placentae also exhibited increased collagen deposition and decreased Flt1 mRNA expression (p < 0.05). RUPP kidneys revealed an increase in average glomerular size (p < 0.05). Cardiac spheroids showed a significant increase in FKBPL expression when treated with LOPE plasma (p < 0.05) and a trend towards increased FKBPL expression following treatment with EOPE plasma (p = 0.06). Conclusions: The rat RUPP model induced cardiac, renal and placental features reflective of preeclampsia. FKBPL was increased in the hearts of RUPP rats and cardiac spheroids treated with plasma from women with preeclampsia, perhaps reflective of restricted angiogenesis and inflammation in this disorder. Elucidation of these novel FKBPL mechanisms in cardiac health in preeclampsia could be key in preventing future CVD.

Original languageEnglish
Article number31
Number of pages14
JournalBiology of Sex Differences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2021


  • Cardiac spheroids
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Preeclampsia
  • Reduced uterine perfusion pressure

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