Twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome. Role of the fetal renin-angiotensin system

Am J Pathol. 2000 Feb;156(2):629-36. doi: 10.1016/S0002-9440(10)64767-0.


The twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTS) results from an unbalanced blood supply through placental anastomoses in monochorionic twins. It induces growth restriction, renal tubular dysgenesis, and oliguria in the donor and visceromegaly and polyuria in the recipient. A better understanding of its pathophysiology could contribute to improving the management of TTS, which still carries a high perinatal mortality in both twins. As well as several other candidates, the renin-angiotensin system might be involved in TTS. To evaluate its role in the pathogenesis of the syndrome, we studied the kidneys of 21 twin pairs who died from TTS at 19 to 30 weeks, compared with 39 individuals in a control group, using light microscopy, immunohistochemistry, and in situ hybridization. The overexpression of the renin protein and transcript with frequent evidence of renin synthesis by mesangial cells was observed in the donor kidneys, presumably as a consequence of chronic renal hypoperfusion. This upregulation of renin synthesis might be beneficial to restore euvolemia. In severe cases of TTS, however, angiotensin-II-induced vasoconstriction acts as an additional deleterious factor by further reducing the renal blood flow in donors. In recipients, renin expression was virtually absent, possibly because it was down-regulated by hypervolemia. However, in addition to congestion and hemorrhagic infarction, there were severe glomerular and arterial lesions resembling those observed in polycythemia- or hypertension-induced microangiopathy. We speculate that fetal hypertension in the recipient might be partly mediated by the transfer of circulating renin produced by the donor, through the placental vascular shunts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Fetofetal Transfusion / pathology
  • Fetofetal Transfusion / physiopathology*
  • Fetus / physiology*
  • Glomerular Mesangium / metabolism
  • Glomerular Mesangium / pathology
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Juxtaglomerular Apparatus / metabolism
  • Juxtaglomerular Apparatus / pathology
  • Pregnancy
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Reference Values
  • Renin / genetics
  • Renin / metabolism
  • Renin-Angiotensin System / physiology*


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Renin