Placental-specific sFLT-1 e15a protein is increased in preeclampsia, antagonizes vascular endothelial growth factor signaling, and has antiangiogenic activity
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In preeclampsia, the antiangiogenic factor soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase-1 (sFLT-1) is released from placenta into the maternal circulation, causing endothelial dysfunction and organ injury. A recently described splice variant, sFLT-1 e15a, is primate specific and the most abundant placentally derived sFLT-1. Therefore, it may be the major sFLT-1 isoform contributing to the pathophysiology of preeclampsia. sFLT-1 e15a protein remains poorly characterized: its bioactivity has not been comprehensively examined, and serum levels in normal and preeclamptic pregnancy have not been reported. We generated and validated an sFLT-1 e15a-specific ELISA to further characterize serum levels during pregnancy, and in the presence of preeclampsia. Furthermore, we performed assays to examine the bioactivity and antiangiogenic properties of sFLT-1 e15a protein. sFLT-1 e15a was expressed in the syncytiotrophoblast, and serum levels rose across pregnancy. Strikingly, serum levels were increased 10-fold in preterm preeclampsia compared with normotensive controls. We confirmed sFLT-1 e15a is bioactive and is able to inhibit vascular endothelial growth factor signaling of vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 and block downstream Akt phosphorylation. Furthermore, sFLT-1 e15a has antiangiogenic properties. sFLT-1 e15a decreased endothelial cell migration, invasion, and inhibited endothelial cell tube formation. Administering sFLT-1 e15a blocked vascular endothelial growth factor induced sprouts from mouse aortic rings ex vivo. We have demonstrated that sFLT-1 e15a is increased in preeclampsia, antagonizes vascular endothelial growth factor signaling, and has antiangiogenic activity. Future development of diagnostics and therapeutics for preeclampsia should consider targeting placentally derived sFLT-1 e15a.