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Maternal systemic inflammation is a feature of pre-eclampsia, a condition in pregnancy characterized by hypertension and proteinuria. Pre-eclampsia is caused by the placenta; many placental factors contribute to the syndrome's progression, and proinflammatory cytokines have been identified previously as one such mediator. The interleukin (IL)-1 family of cytokines are key regulators of the inflammatory network, and two naturally occurring regulatory molecules for IL-1 family cytokines, IL-1RA and sST2, have been found previously to be elevated in maternal blood from women with pre-eclampsia. Here we investigate more recently identified IL-1 family cytokines and regulatory molecules, IL-1RAcP, IL-37, IL-18BP, IL-36α/β/γ/Ra and IL-38 in pre-eclampsia. Pregnant women have more circulating IL-18BP and IL-36Ra than non-pregnant women, and sIL-1RAcP is elevated from women with pre-eclampsia compared to normal pregnancies. The placenta expresses all the molecules, and IL-37 and IL-18BP are up-regulated significantly in pre-eclampsia placentas compared to those from normal pregnancies. Together, these changes contribute to the required inhibition of maternal systemic cytotoxic immunity in normal pregnancy; however, in pre-eclampsia the same profile is not seen. Interestingly, the increased circulating levels of sIL-1RAcP and increased placental IL-18BP and IL-37, the latter of which we show to be induced by hypoxic damage to the placenta, are all factors which are anti-inflammatory. While the placenta is often held responsible for the damage and clinical symptoms of pre-eclampsia by the research community, here we show that the pre-eclampsia placenta is also trying to prevent inflammatory damage to the mother.

Original publication




Journal article


Clin Exp Immunol

Publication Date





480 - 490


IL-1 superfamily, cytokines, pre-eclampsia, pregnancy, Adult, Cell Hypoxia, Cell Line, Tumor, Choriocarcinoma, Cytokines, Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay, Female, Humans, Immunoblotting, Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins, Interleukin 1 Receptor Antagonist Protein, Interleukin-1, Interleukin-1 Receptor Accessory Protein, Interleukins, Placenta, Pre-Eclampsia, Pregnancy, U937 Cells