Abstract Oxygen is necessary for life yet too much or too little oxygen is toxic to cells. The oxygen tension in the maternal plasma bathing placental villi is <20 mm Hg until 10–12 weeks’ gestation, rising to 40–80 mm Hg and remaining in this range throughout the second and third trimesters. Maldevelopment of the maternal spiral arteries in the first trimester predisposes to placental dysfunction and sub-optimal pregnancy outcomes in the second half of pregnancy. Although low oxygen at the site of early placental development is the norm, controversy is intense when investigators interpret how defective transformation of spiral arteries leads to placental dysfunction during the second and third trimesters. Moreover, debate rages as to what oxygen concentrations should be considered normal and abnormal for use in vitro to model villous responses in vivo. The placenta may be injured in the second half of pregnancy by hypoxia, but recent evidence shows that ischemia with reoxygenation and mechanical damage due to high flow contributes to the placental dysfunction of diverse pregnancy disorders. We overview normal and pathologic development of the placenta, consider variables that influence experiments in vitro , and discuss the hotly debated question of what in vitro oxygen percentage reflects the normal and abnormal oxygen concentrations that occur in vivo . We then describe our studies that show cultured villous trophoblasts undergo apoptosis and autophagy with phenotype-related differences in response to hypoxia.
Abstract At the tips of anchoring villi, cytotrophoblast (CTB) proliferation leads to a process of multilayering in which cells lose their attachment to the villous basement membrane and develop into columns, within which they adhere to one another using desmosomes, with associated intermediate filament bundles. Non-desmosomal cadherins, tight junction proteins and other adhesion molecules are also present, suggesting that actin-associated adhesions contribute to placental anchorage. In the distal columns, cell–cell interactions diminish, cells upregulate β1 integrins and bind to a provisional fibrinoid extracellular matrix, eventually detaching to migrate into the decidual stroma and myometrium, where interstitial and endovascular extravillous trophoblast (EVT) populations show distinct repertoires of adhesion molecules.
Abstract In the placental villus, cells attach to basement membrane via integrin α6β4 and adhere both laterally and apically to their neighbours. The most prominent adhesive specialisation seen using the electron microscope is the desmosome, which connects cytotrophoblast cells (CTB) laterally and also contributes to the attachment of CTB to the overlying syncytium. However, numerous cadherins and other junctional proteins are also present in the corresponding plasma membrane domains, indicating a multiplicity of adhesive interactions. Integrins, tight junction components and cadherins are all found in the syncytial microvillous membrane, perhaps reflecting its ability to form intersyncytial bridges. There is a wide gulf to be filled between molecular anatomy and functional studies, with much to be learned about the role of adhesion molecules in regulating villous epithelial integrity, homeostasis and growth.
In pregnancy, trophoblast invasion and uterine spiral artery remodelling are important for lowering maternal vascular resistance and increasing uteroplacental blood flow. Impaired spiral artery remodelling has been implicated in pre-eclampsia, a major complication of pregnancy, for a long time but the underlying mechanisms remain unclear(1,2). Corin (also known as atrial natriuretic peptide-converting enzyme) is a cardiac protease that activates atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP), a cardiac hormone that is important in regulating blood pressure(3). Unexpectedly, corin expression was detected in the pregnant uterus(4). Here we identify a new function of corin and ANP in promoting trophoblast invasion and spiral artery remodelling. We show that pregnant corin-or ANP-deficient mice developed high blood pressure and proteinuria, characteristics of pre-eclampsia. In these mice, trophoblast invasion and uterine spiral artery remodelling were markedly impaired. Consistent with this, the ANP potently stimulated human trophoblasts in invading Matrigels. In patients with pre-eclampsia, uterine Corin messenger RNA and protein levels were significantly lower than that in normal pregnancies. Moreover, we have identified Corin gene mutations inpre-eclamptic patients, which decreased corin activity in processing pro-ANP. These results indicate that corin and ANP are essential for physiological changes at the maternal-fetal interface, suggesting that defects in corin and ANP function may contribute to pre-eclampsia.
Abstract Workshops are an important part of the IFPA annual meeting as they allow for discussion of specialised topics. At IFPA meeting 2016 there were twelve themed workshops, four of which are summarized in this report. These workshops related to various aspects of placental biology but collectively covered areas of decidual-trophoblast interaction, regulation of trophoblast invasion, immune cells at the maternal-fetal interface, and placental inflammation.
Infection of pregnant women by Asian lineage strains of Zika virus (ZIKV) has been linked to brain abnormalities in their infants, yet it is uncertain when during pregnancy the human conceptus is most vulnerable to the virus. We have examined two models to study susceptibility of human placental trophoblast to ZIKV: cytotrophoblast and syncytiotrophoblast derived from placental villi at term and colonies of trophoblast differentiated from embryonic stem cells (ESC). The latter appear to be analogous to the primitive placenta formed during implantation. The cells from term placentas, which resist infection, do not express genes encoding most attachment factors implicated in ZIKV entry but do express many genes associated with antiviral defense. By contrast, the ESC-derived trophoblasts possess a wide range of attachment factors for ZIKV entry and lack components of a robust antiviral response system. These cells, particularly areas of syncytiotrophoblast within the colonies, quickly become infected, produce infectious virus and undergo lysis within 48 h after exposure to lowtiters (multiplicity of infection > 0.07) of an African lineage strain (MR766 Uganda: ZIKV(U)) considered to be benignwith regards to effects on fetal development. Unexpectedly, lytic effects required significantly higher titers of the presumed more virulent FSS13025 Cambodia (ZIKV(C)). Our data suggest that the developing fetus might be most vulnerable to ZIKV early in the first trimester before a protective zone of mature villous trophoblast has been established. Additionally, MR766 is highly trophic toward primitive trophoblast, which may put the early conceptus of an infected mother at high risk for destruction.
Difficulties associated with long-term culture of primary trophoblasts have proven to be a major hurdle in their functional characterization. In order to circumvent this issue, several model cell lines have been established over many years using a variety of different approaches. Due to their differing origins, gene expression profiles and behaviour in vitro, different model lines have been utilized to investigate specific aspects of trophoblast biology. However, generally speaking, the molecular mechanisms underlying functional differences remain unclear. In this study, we profiled genome-scale DNA methylation in primary first trimester trophoblast cells and seven commonly used trophoblast-derived cell lines in an attempt to identify functional pathways differentially regulated by epigenetic modification in these cells. We identified a general increase in DNA promoter methylation levels in four choriocarcinoma (CCA)-derived lines and transformed HTR-8/SVneo cells, including hypermethylation of several genes regularly seen in human cancers, while other differences in methylation were noted in genes linked to immune responsiveness, cell morphology, development and migration across the different cell populations. Interestingly, CCA-derived lines show an overall methylation profile more similar to unrelated solid cancers than to untransformed trophoblasts, highlighting the role of aberrant DNA methylation in CCA development and/or long-term culturing. Comparison of DNA methylation and gene expression in CCA lines and cytotrophoblasts revealed a significant contribution of DNA methylation to overall expression profile. These data highlight the variability in epigenetic state between primary trophoblasts and cell models in pathways underpinning a wide range of cell functions, providing valuable candidate pathways for future functional investigation in different cell populations. This study also confirms the need for caution in the interpretation of data generated from manipulation of such pathways in vitro.
Preeclampsia (PE), a condition during pregnancy that involves high blood pressure and proteinuria, is potentially fatal to both mother and child. PE currently has no known etiology or cure but has been tied to poor placental trophoblast cell migration. Increased levels of the toxic metal cadmium (Cd) have been associated with increased risk of developing PE, as well as miRNA-associated regulation of the transforming growth factorbeta (TGF-β) pathway. Signal reprogramming of the TGF-β pathway via epigenetic mechanisms is hypothesized to modify placental trophoblast function. In the present study we investigated the role of increased and decreased signaling of the TGF-β pathway in relation to Cd-induced reduction in cellular migration in JEG3 trophoblast cells. Furthermore, the role of a miR-26a as a molecular mediator of placental trophoblast migration was confirmed. The results demonstrate that increased expression of miR-26a and decreased signaling of the TGF-β pathway increase placental cell migration. These findings have relevance for mechanistic understanding of the underpinnings of poor placentation associated with PE.