Heparin-binding epidermal growth factor–like growth factor (HB-EGF) plays a role in blastocyst implantation and is down-regulated in preeclampsia and in hypertensive pregnancy disorders associated with defective extravillous trophoblast invasion. Defective placentation and severe preeclampsia are also features of the antiphospholipid syndrome (APS). The purpose of this study was to investigate whether abnormal HB-EGF expression plays a pathogenic role in antiphospholipid antibody (aPL)–mediated defective placentation.
HB-EGF expression in placental tissue was evaluated by Western blotting and messenger RNA analysis in normal and APS placentae. Polyclonal IgG fractions or monoclonal β2-glycoprotein I–dependent aPL and their respective controls were investigated for the following 4 features: their binding to human trophoblast monolayers, as determined by cell enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA); their effect on HB-EGF expression by Western blotting in trophoblast cell extracts as well as by ELISA as a protein secreted in the culture supernatants; their inhibitory effect on in vitro trophoblast invasiveness, as evaluated by Matrigel assay; and their inhibitory effect on matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) levels, as measured by gelatin zymography. Experiments were also performed in the presence of serial concentrations of heparin or recombinant HB-EGF.
Placental APS tissue displayed reduced expression of HB-EGF. Polyclonal and monoclonal aPL bound to trophoblast monolayers and significantly reduced the in vitro synthesis and secretion of HB-EGF. Heparin inhibited aPL binding and restored HB-EGF expression in a dose-dependent manner. Addition of recombinant HB-EGF reduced the in vitro aPL-induced inhibition of Matrigel invasiveness as well as MMP-2 levels.
These preliminary findings suggest that the reduction of aPL-mediated HB-EGF represents an additional mechanism that is responsible for the defective placentation associated with APS and that heparin protects from aPL-induced damage by inhibiting antibody binding.