Maternal treatment with a placental-targeted antioxidant (MitoQ) impacts offspring cardiovascular function in a rat model of prenatal hypoxia

Mais M. Aljunaidy, Jude S. Morton, Raven Kirschenman, Tom Phillips, C. Patrick Case, Christy Lynn M. Cooke, Sandra T. Davidge*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Intrauterine growth restriction, a common consequence of prenatal hypoxia, is a leading cause of fetal morbidity and mortality with a significant impact on population health. Hypoxia may increase placental oxidative stress and lead to an abnormal release of placental-derived factors, which are emerging as potential contributors to developmental programming. Nanoparticle-linked drugs are emerging as a novel method to deliver therapeutics targeted to the placenta and avoid risking direct exposure to the fetus. We hypothesize that placental treatment with antioxidant MitoQ loaded onto nanoparticles (nMitoQ) will prevent the development of cardiovascular disease in offspring exposed to prenatal hypoxia. Pregnant rats were intravenously injected with saline or nMitoQ (125 μM) on gestational day (GD) 15 and exposed to either normoxia (21% O2) or hypoxia (11% O2) from GD15-21 (term: 22 days). In one set of animals, rats were euthanized on GD 21 to assess fetal body weight, placental weight and placental oxidative stress. In another set of animals, dams were allowed to give birth under normal atmospheric conditions (term: GD 22) and male and female offspring were assessed at 7 and 13 months of age for in vivo cardiac function (echocardiography) and vascular function (wire myography, mesenteric artery). Hypoxia increased oxidative stress in placentas of male and female fetuses, which was prevented by nMitoQ. 7-month-old male and female offspring exposed to prenatal hypoxia demonstrated cardiac diastolic dysfunction, of which nMitoQ improved only in 7-month-old female offspring. Vascular sensitivity to methacholine was reduced in 13-month-old female offspring exposed to prenatal hypoxia, while nMitoQ treatment improved vasorelaxation in both control and hypoxia exposed female offspring. Male 13-month-old offspring exposed to hypoxia showed an age-related decrease in vascular sensitivity to phenylephrine, which was prevented by nMitoQ. In summary, placental-targeted MitoQ treatment in utero has beneficial sex- and age-dependent effects on adult offspring cardiovascular function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)332-342
Number of pages11
JournalPharmacological Research
Early online date17 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


  • Antioxidants
  • Cardiovascular
  • DOHaD
  • Nanoparticles


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