Plasma ceramide is increased and associated with proteinuria in women with pre-eclampsia and HELLP syndrome

Fouad Amraoui, Hajar Hassani Lahsinoui, Leon J. A. Spijkers, Liffert Vogt, Stephan L. M. Peters, Dayanjan S. Wijesinghe, Urszula O. Warncke, Charles E. Chalfant, Carrie Ris-Stalpers, Bert-Jan H. van den Born, Gijs B. Afink

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Objectives: Ceramide is a sphingolipid with anti-angiogenic and pro-apoptotic properties that has shown to be increased in plasma of women with pre-eclampsia. We aimed to compare plasma and placental sphingolipid content among normotensive pregnant women and pre-eclamptic women with and without HELLP syndrome and we aimed to assess whether ceramide is related to hypertension and proteinuria in pre-eclampsia. Study design: Case-control study. Participants were recruited from the Department of Obstetrics at the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. In total 48 pregnant women were included: 24 with pre-eclampsia and 24 normotensive controls. Of the 24 pre-eclamptic women, 11 had HELLP syndrome. Main outcome measures: Plasma and placental ceramide content and correlation with blood pressure and protein excretion in pre-eclampsia. Results: Total plasma, but not placental, ceramide was higher in pre-eclamptic women with HELLP syndrome (11200 95% CI 9531–12870 nmol/ml, n = 11) compared to pre-eclamptic women without HELLP (7413 95% CI 5928–8898 nmol/ml, n = 13, p < 0.001) and normotensive pregnant women (7404 95% CI 6695–8112 nmol/ml, n = 24, p < 0.001). Maternal circulating ceramide levels were strongly associated with proteinuria (r = 0.621, n = 24, p = 0.001) in pre-eclamptic women and inversely correlated with gestational age at delivery (r = 0.771, p < 0.01) in pre-eclamptic women with HELLP syndrome. Plasma ceramide was not correlated with blood pressure. Conclusion: Plasma but not placental ceramide content is increased in women with pre-eclampsia and HELLP syndrome. The strong positive correlation with proteinuria and the inverse correlation with gestational age at delivery indicate that excess plasma ceramide may contribute to the pathophysiology of pre-eclampsia and HELLP.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)100-105
Number of pages6
JournalPregnancy Hypertension
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • HELLP syndrome
  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Proteinuria
  • Sphingolipids

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