Natural killer cells contribute to mitochondrial dysfunction in response to placental ischemia in reduced uterine perfusion pressure rats

Venkata Ramana Vaka, Kristen M. McMaster, Denise C. Cornelius, Tarek Ibrahim, Aswathi Jayaram, Nathan Usry, Mark W. Cunningham, Lorena M. Amaral, Babbette LaMarca

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13 Scopus citations


Preeclampsia (PE) is characterized by new-onset hypertension during pregnancy and is associated with immune activation and placental oxidative stress. Mitochondrial dysfunction is a major source of oxidative stress and may play a role in the pathology of PE. We (Vaka VR, et al. Hypertension 72: 703-711, 2018. doi: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.118.11290 .) have previously shown that placental ischemia is associated with mitochondrial oxidative stress in the reduced uterine perfusion pressure (RUPP) model of PE. Furthermore, we have also shown that placental ischemia induces natural killer (NK) cell activation in RUPP. Thus, we hypothesize that NK cell depletion could improve mitochondrial function associated with hypertension in the RUPP rat model of PE. Pregnant Sprague-Dawley rats were divided into three groups: normal pregnant (NP), RUPP, and RUPP+NK cell depletion rats (RUPP+NKD). On gestational day (GD)14, RUPP surgery was performed, and NK cells were depleted by administering anti-asialo GM1 antibodies (3.5 µg/100 µl ip) on GD15 and GD17. On GD19, mean arterial pressure (MAP) was measured, and placental mitochondria were isolated and used for mitochondrial assays. MAP was elevated in RUPP versus NP rats (119 ± 1 vs.104 ± 2 mmHg, P = 0.0004) and was normalized in RUPP+NKD rats (107 ± 2 mmHg, P = 0.002). Reduced complex IV activity and state 3 respiration rate were improved in RUPP+NKD rats. Human umbilical vein endothelial cells treated with RUPP+NKD serum restored respiration with reduced mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS). The restored placental or endothelial mitochondrial function along with attenuated endothelial cell mitochondrial ROS with NK cell depletion indicate an important role of NK cells in mediating mitochondrial oxidative stress in the pathology of PE.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)R441-R447
JournalAmerican journal of physiology. Regulatory, integrative and comparative physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 May 2019


  • mitochondria
  • natural killer cells
  • placental ischemia
  • reactive oxygen species


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