First trimester serum biomarker discovery study for early onset, preterm onset and preeclampsia at term

Beernink, Rik HJ, et al. “First trimester serum biomarker discovery study for early onset, preterm onset and preeclampsia at term.” Placenta 128 (2022): 39-48.



Preeclampsia (PE) is a heterogeneous syndrome during pregnancy and postpartum and it is subdivided in this study into early onset (<34 weeks), preterm onset (34–37 weeks) and PE at term (>37 weeks). First trimester models currently lack a sufficient power to predict PE, but inclusion of biochemical markers shows an improvement of their predictive power. The aim of this study was to perform a biomarker discovery study in order to find possible novel first trimester biomarkers for each PE subtype. Further, our findings were related to available literature and the possible role of the proteins in the development of preeclampsia was discussed.


In this study, 9 early onset (<34 weeks), 8 preterm onset (34–37 weeks), 6 PE at term (>37 weeks) and 23 control samples were drawn between 11 and 14 weeks gestational age. Serum samples were prepared for liquid chromatography mass spectrometry analysis and protein data were exported for statistical analyses. All differentially expressed proteins were further evaluated by searching literature in MEDLINE, Embase and Web of science and differential expression of two proteins, which were not yet associated with PE, was verified through enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).


After statistical analysis, six, four and eight proteins were differently expressed in early onset, preterm onset and PE at term, respectively. After exclusion of antibody fragments, only nine proteins remained. Seven out of these nine proteins were already in literature associated with preeclampsia and only three of them were described as differentially expressed in the first trimester or early second trimester of preeclamptic pregnancies. Differential expression of Apolipoprotein D (ApoD), which was not yet associated with PE, was confirmed by ELISA in both early and preterm onset PE in the first trimester.


In this study, two main observations were made. First, some of the differentially expressed proteins have a role in the same biological pathway, such as the acute phase response or endometrium receptivity, and their differential expression was observed in all three PE subtypes. This observation supports the hypothesis that classification of PE could be more accurate when subtyping is based on the etiology and/or phenotype instead of the arbitrary parameter gestational age at onset or delivery. Second, seven differential expressed proteins were already associated in literature with preeclampsia, but this association was for only three of them observed in the first trimester. In addition, ApoD was not yet associated with PE in other studies and, moreover, its differential expression was confirmed by ELISA. Therefore the predictive power of these proteins in the first trimester is worth evaluating in a larger and more heterogeneous cohort.