Increased vascular and uteroplacental matrix metalloproteinase-1 and -7 levels and collagen type I deposition in hypertension in pregnancy: role of TNF-α

Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2017 Sep 1;313(3):H491-H507. doi: 10.1152/ajpheart.00207.2017. Epub 2017 Jun 16.


Preeclampsia is a pregnancy-related disorder manifested as maternal hypertension in pregnancy (HTN-Preg) and fetal growth restriction. Placental ischemia could be an initiating event that leads to abnormal vascular and uteroplacental remodeling in HTN-Preg; however, the molecular targets and intermediary mechanisms involved are unclear. We tested the hypothesis that placental ischemia could target vascular and uteroplacental matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) through an inflammatory cytokine-mediated mechanism. MMP levels and distribution were measured in the aorta, uterus, and placenta of normal pregnant (Preg) rats and pregnant rats with reduced uterine perfusion pressure (RUPP). Maternal blood pressure was higher and the litter size and pup weight were lower in RUPP compared with Preg rats. Gelatin zymography showed prominent uterine MMP-2 and MMP-9 activity that was dependent on the amount of loaded protein. At saturating protein loading, both gelatin and casein zymography revealed two additional bands corresponding to MMP-1 and MMP-7 that were greater in the aorta, uterus, and placenta of RUPP compared with Preg rats. Western blots and immunohistochemistry confirmed increased MMP-1 and MMP-7 in the aorta, uterus, and placenta of RUPP versus Preg rats. The levels of MMP-1 and MMP-7 substrate collagen type I were greater in tissues of RUPP compared with Preg rats. In organ culture, TNF-α increased MMP-1 and MMP-7 in the aorta, uterus, and placenta of Preg rats, and a TNF-α antagonist prevented the increases in MMPs in tissues of RUPP rats. Thus, placental ischemia, possibly through TNF-α, increases vascular and uteroplacental MMP-1 and MMP-7, which, in turn, alter collagen deposition and cause inadequate tissue remodeling in HTN-Preg. Cytokine antagonists may reverse the increase in MMP-1 and MMP-7 expression/activity and, in turn, restore proper vascular and uteroplacental remodeling in HTN-Preg and preeclampsia.NEW & NOTEWORTHY The molecular mechanisms of preeclampsia are unclear, making it difficult to predict, prevent, or manage the pregnancy-associated disorder. This study showed that placental ischemia, possibly through the release of TNF-α, causes increases in the levels of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-1 and MMP-7, which could alter collagen deposition and cause inadequate uteroplacental and vascular remodeling in hypertension in pregnancy. The data suggest that targeting MMP-1 and MMP-7 and their upstream modulators, such as TNF-α, could provide a new approach in the management of hypertension in pregnancy and preeclampsia.

Keywords: aorta; placenta; preeclampsia; remodeling; tumor necrosis factor-α; uterus.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aorta / enzymology
  • Blood Pressure
  • Collagen Type I / metabolism*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Hypertension, Pregnancy-Induced / enzymology*
  • Hypertension, Pregnancy-Induced / etiology
  • Hypertension, Pregnancy-Induced / physiopathology
  • Immunoglobulin Fc Fragments / pharmacology
  • Ischemia / enzymology*
  • Ischemia / etiology
  • Ischemia / physiopathology
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 1 / metabolism*
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 7 / metabolism*
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Placenta / blood supply*
  • Placenta / drug effects
  • Placenta / enzymology*
  • Placental Circulation
  • Placentation* / drug effects
  • Pregnancy
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Signal Transduction
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / pharmacology
  • Up-Regulation
  • Uterus / blood supply*
  • Uterus / drug effects
  • Uterus / enzymology*
  • Vascular Remodeling* / drug effects


  • Collagen Type I
  • Immunoglobulin Fc Fragments
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 7
  • MMP1 protein, rat
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 1