Environ Res. 2022 Jun;209:112874. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2022.112874. Epub 2022 Feb 4.
BACKGROUND/AIM: Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are important regulators of uterine remodeling, a critical process for healthy pregnancies, and studies have revealed a link between an imbalance in MMPs and adverse birth outcomes. Toxicological studies have indicated that exposure to heavy metals can alter the levels of inflammatory cytokines, including MMPs. Despite growing evidence, the clear association between heavy metal exposure and MMPs has yet to be explored extensively in human populations. To have a better understanding of the association, in this study, we assessed associations between maternal blood metal levels with MMPs among 617 pregnant women in the Puerto Rico PROTECT birth cohort.
METHODS: We measured blood concentrations for 11 metals in the first and/or second trimester of pregnancy using ICP-MS. MMPs (MMP1, MMP2, and MMP9) were quantified using a customized Luminex assay. Linear mixed effects models (LMEs) were used to regress MMPs on metals and included random intercepts for study participants to account for correlated repeated outcome measures. Fetal sex effects were estimated using interaction terms between metal exposure variables and fetal sex indicators.
RESULTS: We observed significant associations between cesium, manganese, and zinc with all the MMPs that were measured. We also observed differences in metal-MMPs associations by fetal sex. Cobalt was positively associated with MMP1 only in women with male fetuses, and cesium was negatively associated with MMP1 only in women with female fetuses. MMP2 had significant associations with maternal blood metal concentrations only in women with female fetuses.
CONCLUSION: Certain metals were significantly associated with MMPs that are responsible for uterine remodeling and healthy pregnancies. Most of these associations differed by fetal sex. This study highlighted significant metal-MMPs associations that may inform research on new avenues for understanding heavy metal-induced adverse birth outcomes and the development of diagnostic tools.