Preeclampsia represents one of the most frequent complications of pregnancy, however, little is known about its aetiology. Damage of the endothelial layer lining the blood vessel wall is thought to play an important role in the pathophysiology of preeclampsia, accordingly, mild hyperhomocysteinaemia has been reported to be more prevalent among preeclamptic women. Therefore, we investigated the role of hyperhomocysteinaemia in preeclampsia by measuring plasma levels of homocysteine and studying the prevalence of the 677(C→T) polymorphism in the 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) gene, which may lead to reduced MTHFR enzyme activity and subsequently to higher plasma homocysteine levels.
Plasma samples of 10 healthy non-pregnant women, 10 normotensive pregnant women, and 20 women with preeclampsia were analysed for total homocysteine levels by high performance liquid chromatography. Furthermore, 167 Dutch non-pregnant women previously hospitalised for preeclampsia and 403 population-based controls were analysed for the 677(C→T) polymorphism by polymerase chain reaction followed by restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis (PCR/RFLP).
In normotensive pregnancy homocysteine levels were lower compared with levels in healthy non-pregnant controls (8.4 versus 13.7 μmol/l, P<0.001). Women with preeclampsia showed higher concentrations than women during normotensive pregnancy (13.3 versus 8.4 μmol/l, P<0.02). However, levels of homocysteine in preeclampsia were comparable to those found in healthy non-pregnant women. PCR/RFLP showed no significant difference in the incidence of the 677(C→T) polymorphism in the MTHFR gene between preeclamptic women with or without HELLP syndrome and controls (13 and 9% homozygous for the less common T-allele, respectively; OR 1.5, 95% CI 0.8–2.6, P=0.17).
In contrast with previous reports, we cannot confirm that mild hyperhomocysteinaemia is a risk factor for preeclampsia. Pregnancy induced hyperhomocysteinaemia found in preeclampsia might better be explained by fluctuations in plasma volume than by the presence of the 677(C→T) polymorphism in the MTHFR gene.
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