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Maternal testosterone and placental function: Effect of electroacupuncture on placental expression of angiogenic markers and fetal growth

Journal article
Authors R. Fornes
M. Hu
M. Maliqueo
Milana Kokosar
Anna Benrick
D. Carr
Håkan Billig
T. Jansson
L. Manni
E. Stener-Victorin
Published in Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology
Volume 433
Issue C
Pages 1-11
ISSN 0303-7207
Publication year 2016
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology
Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Physiology
Pages 1-11
Language en
Keywords Maternal androgen excess, Polycystic ovary syndrome, Placenta, Fetus, Acupuncture, Electrical stimulation, polycystic-ovary-syndrome, low-frequency electroacupuncture, sympathetic-nerve activity, female rhesus-monkeys, blood-flow responses, pregnant-women, anesthetized rats, neuroendocrine function, uterine, arteries, serum androgens, Cell Biology, Endocrinology & Metabolism
Subject categories Clinical Medicine


Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) have elevated circulating androgens during pregnancy and are at an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes. Here we tested the hypotheses that maternal androgen excess decrease placental and fetal growth, and placental expression of markers of steroidogenesis, angiogenesis and sympathetic activity, and that acupuncture with low-frequency electrical stimulation prevents these changes. Pregnant rats were exposed to vehicle or testosterone on gestational day (GD)15-19. Low-frequency electroacupuncture (EA) or handling, as a control for the EA procedure, was given to control or testosterone exposed dams on GD16-20. On GD21, blood pressure was measured and maternal blood, fetuses and placentas collected. Placental steroid receptor expression and proteins involved in angiogenic, neurotrophic and adrenergic signaling were analyzed. EA did not affect any variables in control rats except maternal serum corticosterone, which was reduced. EA in testosterone exposed dams compared with controls increased systolic pressure by 30%, decreased circulating norepinephrine and corticosterone, fetal and placental weight and placental VEGFR1 and proNGF protein expression, and increased the VEGFA/VEGFR1 ratio, mature NGF (mNGF) and the mNGF/proNGF ratio. In conclusion, low-frequency EA in control animals did not have any negative influence on any of the studied variables. In contrast, EA in pregnant dams exposed to testosterone increased blood pressure and impaired placental growth and function, leading to decreased fetal growth. (C) 2016 Published by Elsevier Ireland Ltd.

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