Colorado PROFILES, The Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CCTSI)
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Genetic Regulation of Hypoxia-Induced IUGR

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Reduced 02 availability at high altitude restricts fetal growth and increases the frequency of preeclampsia, making high-altitude residents the single largest group at risk for these complications. We have shown that this altitude-related increase is due, in part, to alterations in maternal vascular reactivity; growth and remodeling that lessen uterine artery (UA) blood flow. Moreover our data demonstrate that multigenerational compared with shorter-term high-altitude residents are protected from the altitude-associated increase in IUGR due to greater UA blood flow. Based on recent evidence demonstrating that hypoxia-inducible transcription factors (HIFs) play a central role in regulating O2-sensitive genes, are implicated in pregnancy disorders, and our preliminary data that they are differentially regulated in long- vs. short-term populations, we propose to test the overall hypothesis that genetic variants in HIF-targeted or regulatory pathways protect multigenerational high-altitude residents from hypoxia-associated IUGR. Serial studies are proposed during pregnancy and again postpartum in 100 high- (3600 m) and 100 low- (300 m) altitude residents. Women will be drawn evenly from populations with multigenerational (Andean) vs. shorter-term (European) residence at high altitude. Specific aims are to test whether 1) Andean vs. European ancestry is protective against hypoxia-induced IUGR due genetic factors influencing HIF-targeted secretory gene products and UA blood flow, 2) differences in UA blood flow and fetal growth are due to HIF-targeted and -regulatory genes, and 3) Andean-European differences in maternal physiologic responses to pregnancy and fetal growth are the result of actions of HIF-targeted or regulatory genes influencing UA vasoconstriction, vasodilation, or growth. These aims are supported by preliminary data demonstrating protection from hypoxia-associated IUGR in Andean vs. European high-altitude residents together with greater UA blood flow, lower endothelin-1 levels (EDN1) and the presence of distinctive genetic variants in or near the EDN1 as well as other, HIF-targeted genes. Thus we have designed a novel strategy for coupling genomic approaches with more traditional physiological tools to identify genes influencing maternal vascular response to pregnancy and hypoxia-induced IUGR. The proposed studies are relevant not only for the 140 million high-altitude residents worldwide, including more than 100,000 in Colorado, but also the larger number of women whose pregnancies are complicated by uteroplacental ischemia and/or fetal hypoxia.
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