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Pericytes are multifunctional cells wrapped around capillary endothelia, essential for vascular health, development, and blood flow regulation, although their role in human placental chorionic villi has not been fully explored. The second half of normal pregnancy is characterized by a progressive decline in placental and fetal oxygen levels which, by term, comprises a substantial degree of hypoxia. We hypothesized this hypoxia would stimulate pericyte regulation of chorionic villous capillary function. This study's objective was to investigate the role of hypoxia on normal term placental pericytes (PLVP) and their signaling to endothelial cells. First, we confirmed fetoplacental hypoxia at term by a new analysis of umbilical arterial blood oxygen tension of 3,010 healthy singleton neonates sampled at caesarean section and before labor. We then measured the release of cytokines, chemokines, and small extracellular vesicles (PLVPsv), from PLVP cultured at 20%, 8% and 1% O2. As O2 levels decreased, secreted cytokines and chemokines [interleukin-6 (IL-6), interleukin-1α (IL-1α) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)], and small extracellular vesicle markers, (Alix, Syntenin and CD9) increased significantly in the culture supernatants. When primary human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) were cultured with PLVPsv, polygon formation, number, and tube formation length was significantly increased compared to cells not treated with PLVPsv, indicating PLVPsv stimulated angiogenesis. We conclude that adding PLVPsv stimulates angiogenesis and vessel stabilization on neighboring endothelial cells in response to hypoxia in term pregnancy compared to no addition of PLVPsv. Our finding that PLVP can release angiogenic molecules via extracellular vesicles in response to hypoxia may apply to other organ systems.

Original publication




Journal article


Biochem Biophys Res Commun

Publication Date





20 - 29


Angiogenesis, Hypoxia, Placental pericytes, Small extracellular vesicles, Infant, Newborn, Female, Pregnancy, Humans, Placenta, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A, Pericytes, Cesarean Section, Hypoxia, Oxygen, Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells, Cytokines, Extracellular Vesicles