The vitamin E-binding protein afamin increases in maternal serum during pregnancy

Clin Chim Acta. 2014 Jul 1;434(100):41-7. doi: 10.1016/j.cca.2014.03.036. Epub 2014 Apr 24.


Background: Afamin is a liver-derived plasma glycoprotein with vitamin E-binding properties and a putative function in fertility. This study evaluated serum afamin concentrations during and postpartum to uncomplicated pregnancies and investigated a potential association between afamin concentrations and pregnancy outcome.

Methods: Afamin serum concentrations were measured in women with uncomplicated pregnancies in a retrospective cohort (n=466) at different gestational ages and a prospective observational study (n=76) in the first, second and third trimester. Furthermore, afamin was determined in the first trimester in a cross-sectional pilot study including women with preeclampsia (PE), pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH) and women without pregnancy complications (n=13 each). Finally, expression of afamin was investigated in human placental tissue by RT-PCR and immunohistochemistry.

Results: Afamin concentrations increased linearly almost two-fold during pregnancy in both retrospective and prospective studies in women without pregnancy complications with median afamin serum concentrations of 61.9 mg/l, 79.6 mg/l, and 98.6 mg/l in the first, second, and third trimester, respectively. After delivery, median afamin concentrations decreased to baseline values of 54.6 mg/l. In the pilot study with pregnancy complications, women with PE displayed significantly higher median afamin concentrations than did women with uncomplicated pregnancy (70.0 mg/l vs. 55.4 mg/l, P=0.007). Expression analyses revealed no placental afamin expression at either mRNA or protein level in uncomplicated pregnancy.

Conclusion: A linear increase in the maternally expressed glycoprotein afamin during pregnancy may serve as basic reference for subsequent investigations of afamin in pregnancy-related disorders.

Keywords: Afamin in pregnancy; maternal expression; preeclampsia; pregnancy complications.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Carrier Proteins / blood*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology*
  • Glycoproteins / blood*
  • Humans
  • Pilot Projects
  • Pre-Eclampsia / blood
  • Pre-Eclampsia / metabolism*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimesters
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Serum Albumin
  • Serum Albumin, Human
  • Vitamin E / metabolism*
  • Young Adult


  • AFM protein, human
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Glycoproteins
  • Serum Albumin
  • Vitamin E
  • Serum Albumin, Human