Introduction: An imbalance between angiogenic and anti-angiogenic factors has been proposed as central to the pathophysiology of preeclampsia (PE). Indeed, patients with PE and those delivering small-for-gestational age (SGA) neonates have higher plasma concentrations of soluble vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-1 (sVEGFR-1) and the soluble form of endoglin (s-Eng), as well as lower plasma concentrations of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and placental growth factor (PlGF) than do patients with normal pregnancies. Of note, this imbalance has been observed before the clinical presentation of PE or the delivery of an SGA neonate. The objective of this study was to determine if changes in the profile of angiogenic and anti-angiogenic factors in maternal plasma between the first and second trimesters are associated with a high risk for the subsequent development of PE and/or delivery of an SGA neonate.
Methods: This longitudinal case-control study included 402 singleton pregnancies in the following groups: (1) normal pregnancies with appropriate for gestational age (AGA) neonates (n = 201); (2) patients who delivered an SGA neonate (n = 145); and (3) patients who developed PE (n = 56). Maternal plasma samples were obtained at the time of each prenatal visit, scheduled at 4-week intervals from the first or early second trimester until delivery. In this study, we included two samples per patient: (1) first sample obtained between 6 and 15 weeks of gestation ('first trimester' sample), and (2) second sample obtained between 20 and 25 weeks of gestation ('second trimester' sample). Plasma concentrations of s-Eng, sVEGFR-1, and PlGF were determined by specific and sensitive immunoassays. Changes in the maternal plasma concentrations of these angiogenesis-related factors were compared among normal patients and those destined to develop PE or deliver an SGA neonate while adjusting for maternal age, nulliparity, and body mass index. General linear models and polytomous logistic regression models were used to relate the analyte concentrations, ratios, and product to the subsequent development of PE and SGA.
Results: (1) An increase in the maternal plasma concentration of s-Eng between the first and second trimesters conferred risk for the development of preterm PE and SGA (OR 14.9, 95% CI 4.9-45.0 and OR 2.9, 95% CI 1.5-5.6, respectively). (2) An increase in the maternal plasma concentration of sVEGFR-1 between the first and second trimester conferred risk for the development of preterm PE (OR 3.9, 95% CI 1.2-12.6). (3) A subnormal increase in maternal plasma PlGF concentration between the first and the second trimester was a risk factor for the subsequent development of preterm and term PE (OR 4.3, 95% CI 1.2-15.5 and OR 2.7, 95% CI 1.2-5.9, respectively). (4) In addition, the combination of the three analytes into a pro-angiogenic versus anti-angiogenic ratio (PlGF/(s-Eng x VEGFR-1)) conferred risk for the subsequent development of preterm PE (OR 3.7, 95% CI 1.1-12.1). (5) Importantly, patients with a high change in the s-Eng x sVEGFR-1 product had an OR of 10.4 (95% CI 3.2-33.8) for the development of preterm PE and 1.6 (95% CI 1.0-2.6) for the development of SGA.
Conclusions: Changes in the maternal plasma concentrations of s-Eng, sVEGFR-1, PlGF or their ratios between the first and second trimesters of pregnancy confer an increased risk to deliver an SGA neonate and/or develop PE.