Regulation of the human placental (pro)renin receptor-prorenin-angiotensin system by microRNAs

Yu Wang, Eugenie R Lumbers, Anya L Arthurs, Celine Corbisier de Meaultsart, Andrea Mathe, Kelly A Avery-Kiejda, Claire T Roberts, Fiona Broughton Pipkin, Francine Z Marques, Brian J Morris, Kirsty G Pringle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


STUDY QUESTION: Are any microRNAs (miRNAs) that target the placental renin-angiotensin system (RAS) in the human placenta suppressed in early gestation? SUMMARY ANSWER: Overall, 21 miRNAs with predicted RAS mRNA targets were less abundant in early versus term placentae and nine were more highly expressed. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: Regulation of human placental RAS expression could alter placental development and therefore normal pregnancy outcome. The expression of genes encoding prorenin (REN), angiotensinogen, (pro)renin receptor, angiotensin converting enzyme 2, and the angiotensin II type 1 receptor are highest in early gestation, at a time when oxygen tension is at its lowest. Studies have shown that the human placental RAS is sensitive to oxygen, as are some miRNAs that regulate RAS mRNAs. We propose that in early pregnancy, the prevailing low O2 tension, by suppression of levels of miRNAs that target RAS mRNAs, results in increased expression of RAS mRNAs and encoded proteins. As gestation proceeds and the prevailing oxygen tension rises, abundance of these miRNAs increases, and placental RAS mRNA expression is suppressed. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: The expression of miRNAs was compared in human placentae collected in early (10-11 weeks; n = 7) and mid-gestation (14-18 weeks; n = 8) with placenta collected at term (38-40 weeks; n = 8). Expression of placental miRNAs in women with early (29-35.1 weeks; n = 8) or late-onset pre-eclampsia (PE) (>34-weeks gestation; n = 8) and gestational age matched preterm (31.6-35.1 weeks; n = 8) and term normotensive controls were also compared. PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: Agilent Human miRNA microarray v19 was used to detect up to 2006 miRNAs in four placentae from each group. Statistically different levels of expression were determined and refined using predictive modelling. Placental miRNAs predicted to target RAS mRNAs were identified in three databases. Differences detected on the array were confirmed for some miRNAs by semi-quantitative RT-PCR (qPCR, n = 7-8 for all groups). Two differentially expressed miRNAs that were known to target human renal REN mRNA (miR-181a-5p and miR-663) were transfected into human HTR-8/SVneo trophoblast cells to examine their effect on placental REN expression and prorenin levels. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: In early gestation placentae, 186 miRNAs were differentially expressed compared with term placentae (109 increased, 77 decreased). Thirty of the differentially expressed miRNAs were predicted to target RAS components. In mid-gestation placentae, 117 miRNAs were differentially expressed compared with term placentae (69 increased, 48 decreased). Of these, 19 had RAS mRNAs as predicted targets. Eight miRNAs that were lower in early gestation and predicted to target RAS mRNAs were confirmed by qPCR. All showed an increase during gestation and could influence the transgestational profile of the human placental RAS. Additionally, on the array, three miRNAs predicted to target RAS mRNAs (miR-892c-3p, miR-378c and miR-514b-3p) were overexpressed in placentae from women with late-onset PE (P = 3.6E-10, P = 1.8E-05, P = 5.3E-06; respectively). miR-663, which suppresses renal REN mRNA expression, was overexpressed in early-onset PE placentae as determined by qRT-PCR analysis (P = 0.014). Transfection of miR-181a-5p and miR-663 into HTR-8/SVneo trophoblast cells suppressed REN mRNA expression (P = 0.05) and prorenin protein production (P = 0.001). LARGE SCALE DATA: Data can be found via GEO accession number GSE109832. LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: Further validation that the differentially expressed miRNAs do indeed directly target RAS mRNAs and affect placental development and function is required. This study is limited by the small sample size. Therefore independent validation in a larger cohort is required. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: We propose that suppression of miRNAs that target the placental RAS in early gestation is partly responsible for the increase in RAS expression at this time, in order to promote placental development. Later in pregnancy, we have detected overexpression of several miRNAs in placentae from women with PE. These may prove to be biomarkers for early detection of women at risk of developing PE. Since the placenta produces at least two miRNAs that were found in the kidney to target REN mRNA, and that also target placental REN mRNA, the escape of these miRNAs into the maternal circulation in excess amounts could affect maternal renal REN mRNA production and thereby disturb maternal fluid and electrolyte homoeostasis. STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S): This work was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council, Australia (APP1043537). K.G.P. is supported by an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (FT150100179). C.T.R. is supported by a Lloyd Cox Professorial Research Fellowship from the University of Adelaide. F.Z.M. is supported by a National Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellowship and Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute Fellowship. The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)453-464
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Human Reproduction
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • mRNA
  • placenta
  • renin-angiotensin system
  • pre-eclampsia
  • pregnancy
  • HTR-8/SVneo cells
  • miRNA array
  • MiRNA
  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Renin-angiotensin system
  • MiRNA array
  • Pregnancy
  • Placenta


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