The adaptation of the cerebral circulation to pregnancy: Mechanisms and consequences

Departments of Neurological Sciences, Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, Pharmacology, University of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington, Vermont, USA.
Journal of cerebral blood flow and metabolism: official journal of the International Society of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism (Impact Factor: 5.41). 01/2013; 33(4). DOI: 10.1038/jcbfm.2012.210
Source: PubMed


The adaptation of the cerebral circulation to pregnancy is unique from other vascular beds. Most notably, the growth and vasodilatory response to high levels of circulating growth factors and cytokines that promote substantial hemodynamic changes in other vascular beds is limited in the cerebral circulation. This is accomplished through several mechanisms, including downregulation of key receptors and transcription factors, and production of circulating factors that counteract the vasodilatory effects of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and placental growth factor. Pregnancy both prevents and reverses hypertensive inward remodeling of cerebral arteries, possibly through downregulation of the angiotensin type 1 receptor. The blood-brain barrier (BBB) importantly adapts to pregnancy by preventing the passage of seizure provoking serum into the brain and limiting the permeability effects of VEGF that is more highly expressed in cerebral vasculature during pregnancy. While the adaptation of the cerebral circulation to pregnancy provides for relatively normal cerebral blood flow and BBB properties in the face of substantial cardiovascular changes and high levels of circulating factors, under pathologic conditions, these adaptations appear to promote greater brain injury, including edema formation during acute hypertension, and greater sensitivity to bacterial endotoxin.Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism advance online publication, 16 January 2013; doi:10.1038/jcbfm.2012.210.

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