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The maternal syndrome of pre-eclampsia is caused by generalized maternal endothelial cell dysfunction, arising directly or indirectly from factors of placental origin. Syncytiotrophoblast membrane microvesicular particles are shed from the placental surface into maternal blood in increased amounts in pre-eclampsia and, in vitro, both inhibit endothelial cell proliferation and cause marked changes in the morphology of the cultured cell monolayers. Because there is evidence that proteolytic activation and degradation of the underlying matrix can cause the same morphological changes, we tested the hypothesis that proteases intrinsic to syncytiotrophoblast microvillous membranes (STBM) are the cause of the in vitro endothelial changes. Purified STBM were analysed by zymography and western blotting. Although we could confirm the presence of urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA) in STBM we could demonstrate no intrinsic activity presumably because of its association with the plasminogen activator inhibitor-2 (PAI-2) which is also a component of STBM. We detected gelatinase activity and showed that it was due to the matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9). Its presence was confirmed in this location by immunohistocytochemistry. Protease inhibitors caused a small reversal of the effects of STBM on morphology and no effect on inhibition of proliferation. We conclude that the effect of STBM on endothelial cells is unlikely to be caused by intrinsic proteases.


Journal article



Publication Date





84 - 91


Adult, Blotting, Western, Cell Division, Cell Fractionation, Cell Membrane, Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel, Endothelium, Vascular, Female, Humans, Immunohistochemistry, Matrix Metalloproteinase 9, Microvilli, Pre-Eclampsia, Pregnancy, Trophoblasts, Umbilical Veins, Urokinase-Type Plasminogen Activator