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Iron nitrosyl complexes are formed from nitrite in the human placenta.


Placental nitric oxide (NO) is critical for maintaining perfusion in the maternal-fetal-placental circulation during normal pregnancy. NO and its many metabolites are also increased in pregnancies complicated by maternal inflammation such as preeclampsia, fetal growth restriction, gestational diabetes, and bacterial infection. However, it is unclear how increased levels of NO or its metabolites affect placental function or how the placenta deals with excessive levels of NO or its metabolites. Since there is uncertainty over the direction of change in plasma levels of NO metabolites in preeclampsia, we measured the levels of these metabolites at the placental tissue level. We found that NO metabolites are increased in placentas from patients with preeclampsia compared to healthy controls. We also discovered by ozone-based chemiluminescence and electron paramagnetic resonance that nitrite is efficiently converted into iron nitrosyl complexes (FeNOs) within the human placenta and also observed the existence of endogenous FeNOs within placentas from sheep and rats. We show these nitrite-derived FeNOs are relatively short-lived, predominantly protein-bound, heme-FeNOs. The efficient formation of FeNOs from nitrite in the human placenta hints toward the importance of both nitrite and FeNOs in placental physiology or pathology. As iron nitrosylation is an important posttranslational modification that affects the activity of multiple iron-containing proteins such as those in the electron transport chain, or those involved in epigenetic regulation, we conclude that FeNOs merit increased study in pregnancy complications.

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