Toll-like receptor 3 activation during pregnancy elicits preeclampsia-like symptoms in rats. Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Preeclampsia (PE), a pregnancy-specific hypertensive syndrome, is one of the leading causes of premature births as well as fetal and maternal death. There is strong evidence that maternal immune system activation, of which Toll-like receptors (TLRs) play a major role, contributes to the development of PE. Viral infections, sensed by TLR3, are associated with hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. We tested the hypothesis that TLR3 activation during pregnancy would cause hypertension, endothelial dysfunction, proteinuria, and intrauterine growth restriction in normal pregnant rats. METHODS: We treated pregnant and nonpregnant rats with the viral mimetic polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid (poly I:C) or vehicle every other day beginning at day 10 of gestation and measured systolic blood pressure, aortic vasodilation, urinary protein concentration, fetal growth, and serum and placental cytokine levels. RESULTS: Pregnant rats treated with poly I:C displayed significantly elevated systolic blood pressures compared to pregnant rats and nonpregnant rats treated with poly I:C on day 18 of gestation. Poly I:C-treated pregnant rats also exhibited significantly decreased aortic vasodilation, significantly increased urinary protein concentrations, and had more malformed pups/litter. Additionally, poly I:C-treated rats exhibited a significant increase in placental TLR3 expression and proinflammatory/anti-inflammatory cytokine ratio compared to vehicle-treated rats. Poly I:C treatment of nonpregnant control rats had no effect on systolic blood pressure, aortic vasodilation, or urinary protein concentrations. CONCLUSION: These findings demonstrate that sustained maternal immune system activation via TLR3 during pregnancy causes PE-like symptoms in rats and suggest that viral infection during pregnancy may contribute to the development of PE.

published proceedings

  • Am J Hypertens

author list (cited authors)

  • Tinsley, J. H., Chiasson, V. L., Mahajan, A., Young, K. J., & Mitchell, B. M.

citation count

  • 65

complete list of authors

  • Tinsley, John H||Chiasson, Valorie L||Mahajan, Ashutosh||Young, Kristina J||Mitchell, Brett M

publication date

  • December 2009