Autophagy-related proteins, LC3 and Beclin-1, in placentas from pregnancies complicated by preeclampsia

Reprod Sci. 2008 Nov;15(9):912-20. doi: 10.1177/1933719108319159.


The objective of this study is to investigate the expression of autophagy-related proteins (LC3 and beclin-1) in human placentas and the changes they undergo in the placentas from pregnancies complicated by preeclampsia (PE) and to explore the regulatory mechanisms of these proteins in JEG-3 cells in response to hypoxia or cytokine treatment.The presence of autophagosomes was confirmed with electron microscopy and the expression of LC3 and beclin-1 by immunoimaging methods in human placental trophoblasts. Compared with the placentas from normal pregnancies, the expression of LC3-II protein, but not beclin-1, was increased in the placentas from severe PE. In JEG-3 cells, hypoxia (O(2) < 1%) induced a modest but not significant increase in the expression of LC3-II with a significant decrease in the expression of beclin-1. Meanwhile, TNF-alpha treatment induced a significant increase in the expression of LC3-II without a significant change in the expression of beclin-1. Our data suggests that increased autophagic activity in the placenta may be implicated in the pathophysiology of PE.

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins / genetics
  • Autophagy / physiology*
  • Beclin-1
  • Cell Hypoxia / physiology
  • Cell Line
  • Cytokines / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / genetics
  • Placenta / metabolism*
  • Placenta / pathology
  • Pre-Eclampsia / genetics
  • Pre-Eclampsia / metabolism*
  • Pre-Eclampsia / pathology
  • Pregnancy
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics


  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • BECN1 protein, human
  • Beclin-1
  • Cytokines
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • light chain 3, human