Trophoblast-Specific Conditional Atg7 Knockout Mice Develop Gestational Hypertension

Am J Pathol. 2018 Nov;188(11):2474-2486. doi: 10.1016/j.ajpath.2018.07.021. Epub 2018 Aug 27.


Hypertensive disorder of pregnancy (HDP) is a serious pregnancy complication that is life threatening to both the mother and fetus. Understanding HDP pathophysiology is important for developing medical treatments. This study demonstrates the involvement of autophagy deficiency in adverse maternal and fetal outcomes using trophoblast-specific autophagy related (Atg)7, an autophagy-related protein, knockout mice. Atg7 conditional knockout (cKO) placentas were significantly smaller than controls in the spongiotrophoblast layer but not the labyrinth layer, which significantly elevated blood pressure in dams. A marker of autophagy deficiency, sequestosome 1/p62, was accumulated in giant trophoblast cells and in the spongiotrophoblast layer, accompanying increased apoptosis. However, neither proteinuria in dams nor fetal growth restriction was observed. Regarding trophoblast function, the number of trophoblasts migrating into the maternal decidua was significantly reduced, and the wall/lumen ratio of the spiral arteries was significantly increased in cKO placentas, suggesting shallow trophoblast invasion and inadequate vascular remodeling. The relative expression of placental growth factor mRNA was significantly decreased in cKO placentas compared with the control, likely causing poor placentation; however, other factors were unchanged in cKO placentas. This is the first report of autophagy deficiency leading to impaired placentation complicated by maternal HDP attributable to trophoblast dysfunction, and it suggests that placental autophagy is required for normal placentation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autophagy*
  • Autophagy-Related Protein 7 / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / etiology*
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / pathology
  • Hypertension, Pregnancy-Induced / etiology*
  • Hypertension, Pregnancy-Induced / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Placenta / physiopathology*
  • Pre-Eclampsia / physiopathology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Proteinuria
  • Trophoblasts / metabolism
  • Trophoblasts / pathology*


  • Atg7 protein, mouse
  • Autophagy-Related Protein 7