Histochemistry and Cell Biology

, Volume 122, Issue 4, pp 369–382 | Cite as

Oxidative stress in the placenta

  • Leslie Myatt
  • Xiaolan Cui


Pregnancy is a state of oxidative stress arising from increased placental mitochondrial activity and production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), mainly superoxide anion. The placenta also produces other ROS including nitric oxide, carbon monoxide, and peroxynitrite which have pronounced effects on placental function including trophoblast proliferation and differentiation and vascular reactivity. Excessive production of ROS may occur at certain windows in placental development and in pathologic pregnancies, such as those complicated by preeclampsia and/or IUGR, overpowering antioxidant defenses with deleterious outcome. In the first trimester, establishment of blood flow into the intervillous space is associated with a burst of oxidative stress. The inability to mount an effective antioxidant defense against this results in early pregnancy loss. In late gestation increased oxidative stress is seen in pregnancies complicated by diabetes, IUGR, and preeclampsia in association with increased trophoblast apoptosis and deportation and altered placental vascular reactivity. Evidence for this oxidative stress includes increased lipid peroxides and isoprostanes and decreased expression and activity of antioxidants. The interaction of nitric oxide and superoxide produces peroxynitrite, a powerful prooxidant with diverse deleterious effects including nitration of tyrosine residues on proteins thus altering function. Nitrative stress, subsequent to oxidative stress is seen in the placenta in preeclampsia and diabetes in association with altered placental function.


Placenta Oxidative stress Nitric oxide Superoxide Peroxynitrite 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Obstetrics and GynecologyUniversity of Cincinnati College of MedicineCincinnatiUSA

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