Circulating and placental growth-differentiation factor 15 in preeclampsia and in pregnancy complicated by diabetes mellitus


  • M. Sugulle
  • R. Dechend
  • F. Herse
  • M.S. Weedon-Fekjaer
  • G.M. Johnsen
  • K.B. Brosnihan
  • L. Anton
  • F.C. Luft
  • K.C. Wollert
  • T. Kempf
  • A.C. Staff


  • Hypertension


  • Hypertension 54 (1): 106-112


  • Growth-differentiation factor 15 (GDF-15), a stress-responsive transforming growth factor-beta-related cytokine, is emerging as a new risk marker in patients with cardiovascular disease. We explored GDF-15 in preeclampsia and in diabetic pregnancies, because these conditions are associated with augmented risk for cardiovascular disease, both in mother and in offspring. Plasma from pregnant women (n=267; controls: n=59, preeclampsia: n=85, diabetes mellitus: n=112, and superimposed preeclampsia in diabetes mellitus: n=11), fetal plasma (n=72), and amniotic fluid (n=99) were analyzed by immunoassay for GDF-15. Placental GDF-15 mRNA and protein expression levels were analyzed by quantitative real-time PCR and immunoblots in 78 and 18 pregnancies, respectively. Conditioned media from preeclamptic (n=6) and control (n=6) villous placenta explants were analyzed by immunoassay for GDF-15. Median maternal GDF-15 concentration was elevated in those with diabetes mellitus, as compared with controls (91 549 versus 79 875 ng/L; P=0.02). Median GDF-15 concentration was higher in patients with preeclampsia than in controls in term maternal blood samples (127 061 versus 80 319 ng/L; P<0.001). In the fetal circulation and amniotic fluid, GDF-15 was elevated in preeclampsia and superimposed preeclampsia in diabetes mellitus, as compared with controls. GDF-15 placental mRNA expression was elevated in preeclampsia, as compared with controls (P=0.002). Placenta immunoblots confirmed a single GDF-15 protein band, and a time-dependent increase in GDF-15 protein was detected in the conditioned media. Our study is the first to show that GDF-15 is dysregulated, both in preeclampsia and in diabetic pregnancies. The mechanisms and diagnostic implications of these findings remain to be explored.