Melanocortin-4 Receptor Deficiency Attenuates Placental Ischemia-Induced Hypertension in Pregnant Rats

Hypertension. 2019 Jan;73(1):162-170. doi: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.118.12028.


Preeclampsia is a pregnancy-specific disorder of new-onset hypertension linked to placental ischemia. While obesity is a major risk factor for preeclampsia, not all obese pregnant women develop pregnancy-induced hypertension or preeclampsia. Previously, we reported that placental ischemia-induced hypertension is dependent upon intact signaling of the sympathetic nervous system. Moreover, in various models of obesity, blockade of MC4R (melanocortin-4 receptor) signaling protects against the development of hypertension via suppression of the sympathetic nervous system. Less is known about this pathway during obese pregnancy. Although blockade of MC4R may lead to increased body weight during pregnancy, we tested the hypothesis that placental ischemia-induced hypertension is attenuated in obese MC4R-deficient pregnant rats. On gestational day 14, MC4R wild-type or heterozygous-deficient (MC4R-def) rats were subjected to chronic placental ischemia via the reduced uterine perfusion pressure procedure or Sham surgery then examined on gestational day 19. In Sham MC4R-def versus Sham wild-type pregnant rats, there was increased body weight, fat mass, and circulating leptin levels but they had similar fetus weights. Reduced uterine perfusion pressure reduced fetus weights in both strains. Reduced uterine perfusion pressure increased blood pressure in wild-type rats but this response was significantly attenuated in MC4R-def rats, although blood pressure was elevated in Sham MC4R-def over Sham wild-type. These data indicate that while obese MC4R-def pregnant rats have higher blood pressure during pregnancy, placental ischemia-induced hypertension is attenuated in obese MC4R-def pregnant rats. Thus, obese women with abnormal MC4R signaling may be less susceptible to the development of placental ischemia-induced hypertension.

Keywords: blood pressure; obesity; pre-eclampsia; pregnancy; rats.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pregnancy-Induced* / etiology
  • Hypertension, Pregnancy-Induced* / metabolism
  • Hypertension, Pregnancy-Induced* / physiopathology
  • Ischemia* / metabolism
  • Ischemia* / physiopathology
  • Models, Animal
  • Obesity* / metabolism
  • Obesity* / physiopathology
  • Placenta / blood supply
  • Placenta / metabolism
  • Placenta Diseases* / metabolism
  • Placenta Diseases* / physiopathology
  • Pre-Eclampsia* / etiology
  • Pre-Eclampsia* / metabolism
  • Pre-Eclampsia* / physiopathology
  • Pregnancy
  • Rats
  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 4* / deficiency
  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 4* / metabolism


  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 4
  • melanocortin receptor type 4, rat