Uteroplacental acute atherosis is frequently observed in preeclampsia, and shares features with early atherosclerotic lesions, including artery wall foam cells. The lipid-associated proteins FABP4 (fatty acid binding protein 4), perilipin-2, and LOX-1 (lectin-like oxidized LDL-receptor 1) are involved in atherosclerotic foam cell formation. Increased levels of these proteins have been associated with preeclampsia systemically and in placental tissue. Their role in acute atherosis is yet unidentified. Our aim was to describe the presence of these proteins in acute atherosis, and compare our findings to what is known in early atherosclerotic lesions.
Serial sections of decidua basalis tissue from 12 normotensive (4 with acute atherosis) and 23 preeclamptic pregnancies (16 with acute atherosis) were stained with HE and immunostained for CK7, CD68, FABP4, perilipin-2, and LOX-1. Artery wall and perivascular protein expression was assessed in 190 spiral artery sections; 55 with acute atherosis.
Acute atherosis foam cells were commonly positive for perilipin-2 (55%), less often for FABP4 (13%), and never for LOX-1. LOX-1 was frequently observed in intramural trophoblasts of normal spiral arteries. Perivascularly, LOX-1 positivity of decidual stromal cells surrounding arteries with acute atherosis was significantly increased as compared to arteries lacking acute atherosis (38% vs. 15%, p < 0.001).
We found that perilipin-2 and FABP4 are expressed by acute atherosis foam cells, similar to atherosclerosis, supporting possible shared pathways for foam cell generation. Unlike atherosclerosis, LOX-1 is not present in acute atherosis, possibly explained by pregnancy-specific routes to decidua basalis foam cell generation.

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