Vasoconstrictive effect of bile acids on isolated human placental chorionic veins

Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 1991 Dec 13;42(3):211-5. doi: 10.1016/0028-2243(91)90222-7.


Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP) is a rare complication of late pregnancy associated with a high rate of premature delivery, antepartum fetal death and fetal hypoxia. Since the principal biochemical feature of ICP is a marked elevation of maternal serum bile acid levels, a role of these substances in the pathophysiology of fetal complications has been suggested. In this study, the effect of bile acids on isolated human placental chorionic veins is described. High concentrations of bile acids, especially cholic acid, have a dose-dependent vasoconstrictive effect, which suggests that these substances could exert a detrimental effect on the fetus by increasing the resistance in chorionic veins through a vasospasm of the placental chorionic surface. An abrupt reduction of the oxygenated blood flow at the level of the placental chorionic plate may cause an acute impairment of the fetal perfusion and oxygenation, leading to fetal asphyxia. This is the first report that provides experimental evidence of the possible role of bile acids in those mechanisms that trigger fetal asphyxia in pregnancies complicated by ICP.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bile Acids and Salts / pharmacology*
  • Cholic Acid
  • Cholic Acids / pharmacology
  • Chorion / blood supply*
  • Deoxycholic Acid / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Placenta / blood supply*
  • Pregnancy
  • Vasoconstriction / drug effects*
  • Veins / physiology


  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Cholic Acids
  • Deoxycholic Acid
  • Cholic Acid