Research ArticlePreeclampsia

Protein misfolding, congophilia, oligomerization, and defective amyloid processing in preeclampsia

Science Translational Medicine  16 Jul 2014:
Vol. 6, Issue 245, pp. 245ra92
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3008808

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Preeclampsia is a pregnancy-specific disorder of unknown etiology and a leading contributor to maternal and perinatal morbidity and mortality worldwide. Because there is no cure other than delivery, preeclampsia is the leading cause of iatrogenic preterm birth. We show that preeclampsia shares pathophysiologic features with recognized protein misfolding disorders. These features include urine congophilia (affinity for the amyloidophilic dye Congo red), affinity for conformational state–dependent antibodies, and dysregulation of prototype proteolytic enzymes involved in amyloid precursor protein (APP) processing. Assessment of global protein misfolding load in pregnancy based on urine congophilia (Congo red dot test) carries diagnostic and prognostic potential for preeclampsia. We used conformational state–dependent antibodies to demonstrate the presence of generic supramolecular assemblies (prefibrillar oligomers and annular protofibrils), which vary in quantitative and qualitative representation with preeclampsia severity. In the first attempt to characterize the preeclampsia misfoldome, we report that the urine congophilic material includes proteoforms of ceruloplasmin, immunoglobulin free light chains, SERPINA1, albumin, interferon-inducible protein 6-16, and Alzheimer’s β-amyloid. The human placenta abundantly expresses APP along with prototype APP-processing enzymes, of which the α-secretase ADAM10, the β-secretases BACE1 and BACE2, and the γ-secretase presenilin-1 were all up-regulated in preeclampsia. The presence of β-amyloid aggregates in placentas of women with preeclampsia and fetal growth restriction further supports the notion that this condition should join the growing list of protein conformational disorders. If these aggregates play a pathophysiologic role, our findings may lead to treatment for preeclampsia.

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