Aims: Peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM) is a life-threatening heart disease occurring in previously heart-healthy women. A common pathomechanism in PPCM involves the angiostatic 16 kDa-prolactin (16 kDa-PRL) fragment, which via NF-κB-mediated up-regulation of microRNA-(miR)-146a induces vascular damage and heart failure. We analyse whether the plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1) is involved in the pathophysiology of PPCM.
Methods and results: In healthy age-matched postpartum women (PP-Ctrl, n = 53, left ventricular ejection fraction, LVEF > 55%), PAI-1 plasma levels were within the normal range (21 ± 10 ng/mL), but significantly elevated (64 ± 38 ng/mL, P < 0.01) in postpartum PPCM patients at baseline (BL, n = 64, mean LVEF: 23 ± 8%). At 6-month follow-up (n = 23), PAI-1 levels decreased (36 ± 14 ng/mL, P < 0.01 vs. BL) and LVEF (49 ± 11%) improved. Increased N-terminal pro-brain natriuretic peptide and Troponin T did not correlate with PAI-1. C-reactive protein, interleukin (IL)-6 and IL-1β did not differ between PPCM patients and PP-Ctrl. MiR-146a was 3.6-fold (P < 0.001) higher in BL-PPCM plasma compared with PP-Ctrl and correlated positively with PAI-1. In BL-PPCM serum, 16 kDa-PRL coprecipitated with PAI-1, which was associated with higher (P < 0.05) uPAR-mediated NF-κB activation in endothelial cells compared with PP-Ctrl serum. Cardiac biopsies and dermal fibroblasts from PPCM patients displayed higher PAI-1 mRNA levels (P < 0.05) than healthy controls. In PPCM mice (due to a cardiomyocyte-specific-knockout for STAT3, CKO), cardiac PAI-1 expression was higher than in postpartum wild-type controls, whereas a systemic PAI-1-knockout in CKO mice accelerated peripartum cardiac fibrosis, inflammation, heart failure, and mortality.
Conclusion: In PPCM patients, circulating and cardiac PAI-1 expression are up-regulated. While circulating PAI-1 may add 16 kDa-PRL to induce vascular impairment via the uPAR/NF-κB/miR-146a pathway, experimental data suggest that cardiac PAI-1 expression seems to protect the PPCM heart from fibrosis. Thus, measuring circulating PAI-1 and miR-146a, together with an uPAR/NF-κB-activity assay could be developed into a specific diagnostic marker assay for PPCM, but unrestricted reduction of PAI-1 for therapy may not be advised.
Keywords: Biomarker; Heart failure; PAI-1; Peripartum cardiomyopathy; miR-146a.
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