Augmented trophoblast cell death in preeclampsia can proceed via ceramide-mediated necroptosis

Cell Death Dis. 2017 Feb 2;8(2):e2590. doi: 10.1038/cddis.2016.483.


Preeclampsia, a serious hypertensive disorder of pregnancy, is characterized by elevated ceramide (CER) content that is responsible for heightened trophoblast cell death rates via apoptosis and autophagy. Whether trophoblast cells undergo necroptosis, a newly characterized form of regulated necrosis, and the potential role of CER in this process remain to be established. Herein, we report that exposure of both JEG3 cells and primary isolated cytotrophoblasts to C16:0 CER in conjunction with a caspase-8 inhibitor (Q-VD-OPh) promoted necroptotic cell death, as evidenced by increased expression and association of receptor-interacting protein kinases RIP1 and RIP3, as well as phosphorylation of mixed lineage kinase domain-like (MLKL) protein. MLKL activation and oligomerization could be abrogated by pretreatment with the necroptosis inhibitor necrostatin-1 (Nec-1). CER+Q-VD-OPH-treated primary trophoblasts displayed striking necrotic morphology along with disrupted fusion processes as evidenced by maintenance of E-cadherin-stained membrane boundaries and reduced glial cell missing-1 expression, but these events were effectively reversed using Nec-1. Of clinical relevance, we established an increased susceptibility to necroptotic cell death in preeclamptic placentae relative to normotensive controls. In preeclampsia, increased necrosome (RIP1/RIP3) protein levels, as well as MLKL activation and oligomerization associated with necrotic cytotrophoblast morphology. In addition, caspase-8 activity was reduced in severe early-onset preeclampsia cases. This study is the first to report that trophoblast cells undergo CER-induced necroptotic cell death, thereby contributing to the increased placental dysfunction and cell death found in preeclampsia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Chloromethyl Ketones / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Cadherins / metabolism
  • Caspase 8 / metabolism
  • Cell Death / drug effects
  • Cell Death / physiology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Ceramides / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imidazoles / metabolism
  • Indoles / metabolism
  • Necrosis / drug therapy
  • Necrosis / metabolism*
  • Necrosis / pathology
  • Neuroglia / drug effects
  • Neuroglia / metabolism
  • Neuroglia / pathology
  • Phosphorylation / drug effects
  • Phosphorylation / physiology
  • Placenta / metabolism
  • Placenta / pathology
  • Pre-Eclampsia / metabolism*
  • Pre-Eclampsia / pathology
  • Pregnancy
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Quinolines / pharmacology
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Trophoblasts / drug effects
  • Trophoblasts / metabolism*
  • Trophoblasts / pathology


  • Amino Acid Chloromethyl Ketones
  • Cadherins
  • Ceramides
  • Imidazoles
  • Indoles
  • Quinolines
  • necrostatin-1
  • quinoline-val-asp(OMe)-CH2-OPH
  • Protein Kinases
  • Caspase 8