The potent antioxidant MitoQ protects against preeclampsia during late gestation but increases the risk of preeclampsia when administered in early pregnancy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • Yike Yang
  • Ping Xu
  • Fangyu Zhu
  • Jiujiang Liao
  • Yue Wu
  • Mingyu Hu
  • Huijia Fu
  • Juan Qiao
  • Li Lin
  • Biao Huang
  • Huili Jin
  • Xiyao Liu
  • Yangxi Zheng
  • Li Wen
  • Richard Saffery
  • Jianying Yan
  • Louise C. Kenny
  • Hongbo Qi
  • Chao Tong
  • Philip N. Baker

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • State Key Laboratory of Maternal and Fetal Medicine of Chongqing Municipality, Chongqing, China.
  • Department of Obstetrics, The First Affiliated Hospital of Chongqing Medical University, Chongqing, China.
  • International Collaborative Joint Laboratory of Reproduction and Development of Ministry of Education P.R.C., Chongqing, China.
  • Department of Pediatrics, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia.
  • Fetal Medicine Centre, Birmingham Women's & Children's Foundation Trust, Birmingham, United Kingdom.
  • Fujian Provincial Maternity and Children's Hospital, Affiliated Hospital of Fujian Medical University, Fuzhou, China.
  • Department of Women's and Children's Health, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom.
  • College of Life Sciences, University of Leicester, Leicester, United Kingdom.
  • Cancer, Disease and Developmental Epigenetics, Murdoch Children's Research Institute, Melbourne, Australia.


Aims: Although preeclampsia (PE) has been attributed to excessive oxidative stress (OS) in the placenta, mild antioxidants failed to prevent PE in clinical trials. As mitochondria are a major source of OS, this study assessed the potential of a potent mitochondria-targeting antioxidant MitoQ in the prevention of PE.

Results: Placentas from women with PE and from reduced uterine perfusion pressure (RUPP) mice demonstrated significantly higher OS, along with increased mitochondrial damage and compromised glutathione peroxidase (GPx) activities. MitoQ administration during late gestation alleviated RUPP-induced PE, while early-pregnancy MitoQ treatment not only exacerbated BP, fetal growth restriction and proteinuria, but also reduced the labyrinth/spongiotrophoblast ratio and blood sinuses in the labyrinth. Invasion (Matrigel transwell) and migration (wound healing assay) of trophoblasts were greatly improved by 1 µM H2O2, but this improvement was abolished by MitoQ or MitoTempo. Mild OS enhanced the expression of miR-29b-3p, which regulates 5 genes involved in viability and mobility, in HTR8-S/Vneo cells.

Innovation and Conclusions: Although the potent mitochondrial-targeting antioxidant MitoQ protects against hypertension and kidney damage induced by RUPP in mice when administered in late gestation, it exacerbates the PE-like phenotype when given in early gestation by interfering with placenta formation because mild OS is required to stimulate trophoblast proliferation, invasion and migration. Eliminating trophoblastic OS during early pregnancy may lead to compromised placentation and a risk of diseases of placental origin. Therefore, antioxidant therapy for pregnant women should be considered carefully.


Original languageEnglish
JournalAntioxidants & Redox Signaling
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 31 Mar 2020


  • oxidative stress, redox homeostasis, preeclampsia, antioxidants, placentation, MitoQ