Systemic and renal hemodyanmic changes in normal pregnancy have been attributed in part to altered vascular synthesis of vasodilatory prostaglandins. Besides vasodilatory substances, endothelium also generates vasoconstrictors, including endothelin. We evaluated the capacity of placental tissue from normal pregnant women to express endothelin gene and to generate endothelin. Placental tissue expressed a single 2.3 kb preproendothelin messenger ribonucleic acid and produced comparable amounts of endothelin 3, Big endothelin 1, and endothelin 1 and a minor quantity of endothelin 2. To investigate the possible influence of placental endothelin production on plasma levels of the peptide, plasma endothelin concentrations were measured in normal pregnant women at delivery and were found to be numerically higher than those measured in nonpregnant subjects. Urinary excretion of endothelin, taken as a marker of the renal synthesis of the peptide, tended to increase, although not significantly, in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. This trend continued throughout pregnancy, resulting in a significant increase from the second trimester to delivery.
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