Influence of maternal angiogenic factors during pregnancy on microvascular structure in school-age children
Hypertension , Volume 65 - Issue 4 p. 722- 728
Reduced placental growth factor (PlGF) levels and higher soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase (sFlt-1) levels in mothers during pregnancy may have persistent effects on vascular structures in their offspring. We examined whether angiogenic factors during pregnancy also affect childhood retinal microvasculature in a population-based prospective cohort study among 3505 mothers and their children. We measured maternal PlGF and sFlt-1 in the first and second trimester of pregnancy. At the age of 6, we measured childhood retinal arteriolar and venular calibers from digitized retinal photographs. We performed multiple linear regression models, taking maternal and childhood sociodemographic and lifestyle-related characteristics, birth characteristics, and childhood current body mass index and blood pressure into account. We observed that first trimester maternal PlGF and sFlt-1 levels were not associated with childhood retinal arteriolar caliber. Lower second trimester maternal PlGF levels, but not sFlt-1 levels, were associated with narrower childhood retinal arteriolar caliber (difference: -0.09 SD score [95% confidence interval, -0.16 to 0.01], per SD score decrease in PlGF). This association was not explained by maternal and childhood sociodemographic and lifestyle-related characteristics, birth characteristics, or childhood current body mass index and blood pressure. Maternal PlGF and sFlt-1 levels in the first or second trimester were not associated with childhood retinal venular caliber. Our results suggest that lower maternal second trimester PlGF levels affect the microvascular development in the offspring, leading to narrower retinal arteriolar caliber in childhood. Further studies are needed to confirm these findings and to explore the underlying mechanisms and long-term cardiovascular consequences.