The placental vasculature is critical for nutrient, gas, and waste exchange between the maternal and fetal systems. Its development depends on the proper expression and interaction of angiogenesis and associated growth factors. Heme oxygenase (HMOX), the enzyme for heme degradation, plays a role in angiogenesis and is highly expressed in the placenta. To evaluate the role of maternal HMOX1, the inducible HMOX isozyme, on placental vasculature formation, mice with a partial deficiency in Hmox1 (Hmox1 /−) were used. Three-dimensional images of placental vasculatures as well as spiral arteries from Hmox1 / or Hmox1 /− placentas were created by vascular corrosion casting technique and imaged by micro-computerized tomography (microCT). The structures and morphologies of fetomaternal interfaces were observed by histological staining and the ultrastructure of uterine natural killer (uNK) cells, a major regulator in spiral artery remodeling, was analyzed by transmission electron microscopy. A group of growth factors and angiogenic factors from the decidua/mesometrial lymphoid aggregate of pregnancy (MLAp) as well as labyrinth regions were quantified using an angiogenesis PCR array kit and compared between Hmox1 / or Hmox1 /− placentas. In conclusion, a partial deficiency of maternal Hmox1 resulted in the malformation of fetomaternal interface, insufficiency of spiral artery remodeling, and alteration of uNK cell differentiation and maturation. These changes were independent of the fetal genotype, but relied on the maternal HMOX1 level, which determined the balance of expression levels of pro- and antiangiogenic factors in the decidua/MLAp region. These results implied that Hmox1 polymorphisms among the human population might contribute to some unexplained cases of pregnancy disorders, such as fetal growth retardation and preeclampsia.
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Vol. 85 • No. 5