Etiology and pathogenesis of preeclampsia: current concepts

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1998 Nov;179(5):1359-75. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9378(98)70160-7.


The etiology of preeclampsia is unknown. At present, 4 hypotheses are the subject of extensive investigation, as follows: (1) Placental ischemia-Increased trophoblast deportation, as a consequence of ischemia, may inflict endothelial cell dysfunction. (2) Very low-density lipoprotein versus toxicity-preventing activity-In compensation for increased energy demand during pregnancy, nonesterified fatty acids are mobilized. In women with low albumin concentrations, transporting extra nonesterified fatty acids from adipose tissues to the liver is likely to reduce albumin's antitoxic activity to a point at which very-low density lipoprotein toxicity is expressed. (3) Immune maladaptation-Interaction between decidual leukocytes and invading cytotrophoblast cells is essential for normal trophoblast invasion and development. Immune maladaptation may cause shallow invasion of spiral arteries by endovascular cytotrophoblast cells and endothelial cell dysfunction mediated by an increased decidual release of cytokines, proteolytic enzymes, and free radical species. (4) Genetic imprinting-Development of preeclampsia-eclampsia may be based on a single recessive gene or a dominant gene with incomplete penetrance. Penetrance may be dependent on fetal genotype. The possibility of genetic imprinting should be considered in future genetic investigations of preeclampsia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Obstetrics / trends*
  • Placenta / blood supply
  • Pre-Eclampsia / etiology*
  • Pre-Eclampsia / genetics
  • Pregnancy
  • Regional Blood Flow / physiology
  • Uterus / blood supply