Placental Exosomes as Early Biomarker of Preeclampsia: Potential Role of Exosomal MicroRNAs Across Gestation

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2017 Sep 1;102(9):3182-3194. doi: 10.1210/jc.2017-00672.


Context: There is a need to develop strategies for early prediction of patients who will develop preeclampsia (PE) to establish preventive strategies to reduce the prevalence and severity of the disease and their associated complications.

Objective: The objective of this study was to investigate whether exosomes and their microRNA cargo present in maternal circulation can be used as early biomarker for PE.

Design, setting, patients, and interventions: A retrospective stratified study design was used to quantify total exosomes and placenta-derived exosomes present in maternal plasma of normal (n = 32 per time point) and PE (n = 15 per time point) pregnancies. Exosomes present in maternal circulation were determined by nanoparticle tracking analysis. An Illumina TruSeq® Small RNA Library Prep Kit was used to construct a small RNA library from exosomal RNA obtained from plasma samples.

Results: In presymptomatic women, who subsequently developed PE, the concentration of total exosomes and placenta-derived exosomes in maternal plasma was significantly greater than those observed in controls, throughout pregnancy. The area under the receiver operating characteristic curves for total exosome and placenta-derived exosome concentrations were 0.745 ± 0.094 and 0.829 ± 0.077, respectively. In total, over 300 microRNAs were identified in exosomes across gestation, where hsa-miR-486-1-5p and hsa-miR-486-2-5p were identified as the candidate microRNAs.

Conclusions: Although the role of exosomes during PE remains to be fully elucidated, we suggest that the concentration and content of exosomes may be of diagnostic utility for women at risk for developing PE.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Area Under Curve
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Cohort Studies
  • Exosomes / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism*
  • Pre-Eclampsia / blood*
  • Pre-Eclampsia / diagnosis
  • Pre-Eclampsia / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome*
  • Prenatal Diagnosis / methods
  • Regression Analysis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Role


  • Biomarkers
  • MicroRNAs