Circulating adipokines are associated with pre-eclampsia in women with type 1 diabetes

Diabetologia. 2017 Dec;60(12):2514-2524. doi: 10.1007/s00125-017-4415-z. Epub 2017 Sep 5.


Aims/hypothesis: The incidence of pre-eclampsia, a multisystem disorder of pregnancy, is fourfold higher in type 1 diabetic than non-diabetic women; it is also increased in women with features of the metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance. In a prospective study of pregnant women with type 1 diabetes, we measured plasma levels of adipokines known to be associated with insulin resistance: leptin, fatty acid binding protein 4 (FABP4), adiponectin (total and high molecular weight [HMW]; also known as high molecular mass), retinol binding protein 4 (RBP4) and resistin and evaluated associations with the subsequent development of pre-eclampsia.

Methods: From an established prospective cohort of pregnant type 1 diabetic women, we studied 23 who developed pre-eclampsia and 24 who remained normotensive; for reference values we included 19 healthy non-diabetic normotensive pregnant women. Plasma adipokines were measured (by ELISA) in stored samples from three study visits (Visit 1- Visit 3) at different gestational ages (mean ± SD): Visit 1, 12.4 ± 1.8 weeks; Visit 2, 21.7 ± 1.4 weeks; and Visit 3, 31.4 ± 1.5 weeks. All the women were free of microalbuminuria and hypertension at enrolment. All study visits preceded the clinical onset of pre-eclampsia.

Results: In all groups, leptin, the ratio of leptin to total or HMW adiponectin, FABP4 concentration, ratio of FABP4 to total or HMW adiponectin and resistin level increased, while total and HMW adiponectin decreased, with gestational age. At Visit 1: (1) in diabetic women with vs without subsequent pre-eclampsia, leptin, ratio of leptin to total or HMW adiponectin, and ratio of FABP4 to total or HMW adiponectin, were increased (p < 0.05), while total adiponectin was decreased (p < 0.05); and (2) in normotensive diabetic vs non-diabetic women, total adiponectin was elevated (p < 0.05). At Visits 2 and 3: (1) the primary findings in the two diabetic groups persisted, and FABP4 also increased in women with subsequent pre-eclampsia (p < 0.05); and (2) there were no differences between the two normotensive groups. By logistic regression analyses after covariate adjustment (HbA1c, insulin kg-1 day-1 and gestational age), the best predictive models for pre-eclampsia were as follows: Visit 1, doubling of leptin, OR 9.0 (p < 0.01); Visit 2, doubling of the leptin:total adiponectin ratio, OR 3.7 (p < 0.05); and Visit 3, doubling of FABP4 concentration, OR 25.1 (p < 0.01). The associations were independent of BMI.

Conclusions/interpretation: As early as the first trimester in type 1 diabetic women, adipokine profiles that suggest insulin resistance are associated with subsequent pre-eclampsia, possibly reflecting maternal characteristics that precede pregnancy. These associations persist in the second and third trimesters, and are independent of BMI. Insulin resistance may predispose women with type 1 diabetes to pre-eclampsia.

Keywords: Adipokine; Adiponectin; Diabetes; Fatty acid binding protein; Leptin; Pre-eclampsia; Pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipokines / blood*
  • Adipokines / metabolism
  • Adiponectin / blood
  • Adiponectin / metabolism
  • Adult
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / blood*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / metabolism
  • Fatty Acid-Binding Proteins / blood
  • Fatty Acid-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leptin / blood
  • Leptin / metabolism
  • Pre-Eclampsia / blood*
  • Pre-Eclampsia / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Resistin / blood
  • Resistin / metabolism
  • Retinol-Binding Proteins, Plasma / metabolism
  • Young Adult


  • Adipokines
  • Adiponectin
  • FABP4 protein, human
  • Fatty Acid-Binding Proteins
  • Leptin
  • RBP4 protein, human
  • Resistin
  • Retinol-Binding Proteins, Plasma