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Title: Placental vascular smooth muscle cell differentiation in pregnancies complicated by obesity and gestational diabetes
Author: Whittle, Saxon
ISNI:       0000 0004 5920 2926
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2016
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The increasing demand on healthcare from pregnancies complicated by gestational diabetes (GDM) and obesity is caused in large part by fetal macrosomia (FM). Alterations to the vasculature of the placenta leading to changes to nutrient flux may be more frequent when GDM and obesity occur concomitantly. However, the impact of obesity as an independent comorbidity is poorly understood. The current study sought to characterise structural and functional changes in placenta from pregnancies complicated by GDM and/or obesity and examine the involvement of miRs in this phenomenon, as the phenotype of vascular smooth muscle (VSM) has been documented to be influenced by microRNA (miR) expression. Patients were stratified according to the presence or absence of GDM and/or obesity, which resulted in four groups. Morphometric analysis of CD31 immuno-stained placentas showed that pregnancies complicated by GDM or obesity both had a higher mean sum ratio of the area of the lumen compared to the endothelium. No relationship was found with FM. The ratio increased with maternal body mass index (BMI) in all pregnancies. Immunohistochemistry with a panel of VSM markers suggested an altered phenotype of VSM in pregnancies complicated by GDM and/or obesity. RT-QPCR and immunoblotting showed a higher expression of smooth muscle myosin (SM-MHC), h-caldesmon (HC) and alpha smooth muscle actin (ASMA) in pregnancies complicated by obesity, consistent with a greater contractile capacity. This was most marked when obesity occurred without GDM.Studies were conducted on two miRs, miR-145, which is associated with VSM in many vascular tissues, and the snoRNA-derived species miR-664a-3p, which microarray studies had shown to be higher in placentas from pregnancies complicated by GDM. Dicer and dyskerin, components of the snoRNA-derived miR biogenesis pathway, were increased and reduced respectively in GDM placenta. However, studies in cultured placental villous explants suggested that neither miR species was regulated by glucose, insulin or IGF-I. Placental mesenchymal cells are the developmental precursors of VSM. In primary culture, these cells expressed both miRs. To determine the function of miR-664a-3p, a nucleofection protocol was developed in a fetal mesenchymal cell line, WI38, and applied to first-trimester placental mesenchymal cells. Preliminary proteomic analysis after nucleofection-mediated knockdown of miR-664a-3p suggested a series of novel candidate target proteins for this uncharacterised miR species. Blood vessel structure and VSM phenotype are both altered in pregnancies complicated by GDM and/or obesity. The significance of apparently higher level of contractile proteins with wider vessel lumens in obesity requires further investigation. Translational regulation by miRs including miR-145 and miR-664a-3p is implicated in these alterations. In future, targeted therapies that alter miR levels in the placenta may be useful in control of fetal overgrowth such as FM.
Supervisor: Aplin, John ; Westwood, Melissa ; Forbes, Karen Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Gestational diabetes ; Obesity ; Placenta ; microRNA ; Vascular smooth muscle ; Insulin ; IGF-I ; snoRNA ; Dicer ; Drosha ; Caldesmon ; Myosin ; Actin ; Osteopontin ; miR-664a-3p ; miR-145 ; SNORA36B ; CD31 ; PECAM-1