Gestational Diabetes Mellitus Impairs Nrf2-Mediated Adaptive Antioxidant Defenses and Redox Signaling in Fetal Endothelial Cells In Utero

  1. Giovanni E. Mann1
  1. 1Cardiovascular Division, British Heart Foundation Centre of Research Excellence, King’s College London, London, U.K.
  2. 2Division of Women’s Health, School of Medicine, King’s College London, London, U.K.
  1. Corresponding author: Giovanni E. Mann, giovanni.mann{at}
  1. X.C., S.J.C., and B.P. contributed equally to this work.


In utero exposure to gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in later life, yet the underlying mechanisms remain to be elucidated. We examined the effects of GDM on the proteome, redox status, and nuclear factor erythroid 2–related factor 2 (Nrf2)-mediated antioxidant gene expression in human fetal endothelial cells. Proteomic analysis revealed that proteins involved in redox homeostasis were significantly altered in GDM and associated with increased mitochondrial superoxide generation, protein oxidation, DNA damage, and diminished glutathione (GSH) synthesis. In GDM cells, the lipid peroxidation product 4-hydroxynonenal (HNE) failed to induce nuclear Nrf2 accumulation and mRNA and/or protein expression of Nrf2 and its target genes NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1), Bach1, cystine/glutamate transporter, and glutamate cysteine ligase. Although methylation of CpG islands in Nrf2 or NQO1 promoters was unaltered by GDM, decreased DJ-1 and increased phosphorylated glycogen synthase kinase 3β levels may account for impaired Nrf2 signaling. HNE-induced increases in GSH and NQO1 levels were abrogated by Nrf2 small interfering RNA in normal cells, and overexpression of Nrf2 in GDM cells partially restored NQO1 induction. Dysregulation of Nrf2 in fetal endothelium may contribute to the increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in offspring.


  • Received February 5, 2013.
  • Accepted August 13, 2013.

Readers may use this article as long as the work is properly cited, the use is educational and not for profit, and the work is not altered. See for details.

| Table of Contents