Xanthine oxidase activation in mild gestational hypertension

Hypertens Pregnancy. 2002;21(1):1-11. doi: 10.1081/PRG-120002905.


Objective: We hypothesized that activation of the xanthine oxidase (XO) enzyme system is a potential source of free radicals in pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH).

Methods: A prospective observational study was carried out on 16 pregnant women who met the criteria of gestational hypertension [rise in blood pressure (BP) of 30 mm Hg systolic or 15 mm Hg diastolic after 20 weeks gestation or BP>140/90 mm Hg if earlier pressure is unknown] without proteinuria or any signs of renal impairment. Fourteen women with a clinically normal pregnancy matched for maternal age, parity, and gestational age acted as pregnant controls. Nonpregnant control women were members of the laboratory staff ( n=15).

Main outcome measures: Concentrations of free sulfhydryl (SH) groups, purine catabolites, lipid peroxidation products in plasma, and blood carboxyhemoglobin levels were used to follow oxidative stress and potential hemolysis. A noninvasive measurement of functional XO activity was carried out (i.e., the urinary ratio of the two metabolites of caffeine was estimated).

Results: A pronounced oxidative stress was demonstrated in plasma samples of patients with hypertension by the elevated concentrations of uric acid and lipid peroxidation products. A reduced level of free sulfhydryl groups and an increased concentration of hypoxanthine (HX) were shown in normotensive pregnant individuals. The XO activity index was substantially higher in overweight pregnant subjects with mild hypertension [0.849+/-0.096 ( p<0.01)] than in normotensive pregnant women or in age-matched nonpregnant subjects [0.596+/-0.105, 0.542+/-0.049 (means+/-SD), respectively].

Conclusions: Our study of mildly hypertensive pregnant subjects provides additional evidence of the putative role of XO activation as a source of free radicals in the early stage of endothelial dysfunction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Free Radicals / blood
  • Free Radicals / urine
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / enzymology*
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Cardiovascular / enzymology*
  • Pregnancy Complications, Cardiovascular / physiopathology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reference Values
  • Xanthine Oxidase / metabolism*


  • Free Radicals
  • Xanthine Oxidase