Hypoxia, AMPK activation and uterine artery vasoreactivity

R. A. SKEFFINGTON, JS Higgins, Amira Mahmoud, Anthony Evans, AN Sferruzzi-Perri, A.L. Fowden, HW Yung, GJ Burton, DA Giussani, LG Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Genes near adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase-α1 (PRKAA1) have been implicated in the greater uterine artery (UtA) blood flow and relative protection from fetal growth restriction seen in altitude-adapted Andean populations. Adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK) activation vasodilates multiple vessels but whether AMPK is present in UtA or placental tissue and influences UtA vasoreactivity during normal or hypoxic pregnancy remains unknown. We studied isolated UtA and placenta from near-term C57BL/6J mice housed in normoxia (n = 8) or hypoxia (10% oxygen, n = 7–9) from day 14 to day 19, and placentas from non-labouring sea level (n = 3) or 3100 m (n = 3) women. Hypoxia increased AMPK immunostaining in near-term murine UtA and placental tissue. RT-PCR products for AMPK-α1 and -α2 isoforms and liver kinase B1 (LKB1; the upstream kinase activating AMPK) were present in murine and human placenta, and hypoxia increased LKB1 and AMPK-α1 and -α2 expression in the high- compared with low-altitude human placentas. Pharmacological AMPK activation by A769662 caused phenylephrine pre-constricted UtA from normoxic or hypoxic pregnant mice to dilate and this dilatation was partially reversed by the NOS inhibitor l-NAME. Hypoxic pregnancy sufficient to restrict fetal growth markedly augmented the UtA vasodilator effect of AMPK activation in opposition to PE constriction as the result of both NO-dependent and NO-independent mechanisms. We conclude that AMPK is activated during hypoxic pregnancy and that AMPK activation vasodilates the UtA, especially in hypoxic pregnancy. AMPK activation may be playing an adaptive role by limiting cellular energy depletion and helping to maintain utero-placental blood flow in hypoxic pregnancy.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Physiology
Early online date31 Jul 2015
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016

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