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It is postulated that inadequate remodeling of the uterine spiral arteries in preeclampsia leads to focal ischemia and generation of inflammatory cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF alpha) and interleukins (ILs), by the placenta. Our objective was to compare TNF alpha, IL-1 alpha, IL-1 beta, and IL-6 levels in placentas from patients with preeclampsia and normal term pregnancies. Because the placenta is a large heterogeneous organ, we analyzed multiple sites per placenta. On the average, there was a 3-fold variation in cytokine protein levels across the eight sites analyzed for each placenta. However, there were no significant overall differences among the normal term, preeclamptic, and preterm placentas from women without preeclampsia. There were also no significant differences in TNF alpha messenger ribonucleic acid between the normal term and preeclamptic placentas, although TNF alpha messenger ribonucleic acid levels were lower in placentas from preterm patients without diagnosis of preeclampsia than in the normal term placentas. In vitro, hypoxia stimulated the production of TNF alpha, IL-1 alpha and IL-1 beta, but not that of IL-6, by placental villous explants from both groups of patients, and this was not exaggerated in preeclampsia. Finally, although peripheral and uterine venous levels of TNF alpha were elevated in preeclamptic women compared with normal term patients, the ratio of uterine to peripheral venous TNF alpha levels was not significantly different from 1.0 for either patient group. Taken together, these results suggest that sources other than the placenta contribute to the elevated concentrations of TNF alpha and IL-6 found in the circulation of preeclamptic women.

Original publication




Journal article


J Clin Endocrinol Metab

Publication Date





2505 - 2512


Culture Techniques, Cytokines, Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay, Female, Humans, Inflammation Mediators, Placenta, Pre-Eclampsia, Pregnancy, RNA, Messenger, Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction