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Endocrinology. 2004 Nov;145(11):4838-45. Epub 2004 Jul 29.

Cytotrophoblasts up-regulate soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase-1 expression under reduced oxygen: an implication for the placental vascular development and the pathophysiology of preeclampsia.

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Tokyo, 7-3-1 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-8655, Japan.


Sufficient cytotrophoblast (CT) invasion into the uterine wall and subsequent remodeling of maternal uterine vasculature is critical to establish uteroplacental circulation. The production of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) family molecules is confirmed in placental cells including CTs, but it is not elucidated how the VEGF system in CTs is controlled by oxygen tension and how it is involved in the development of placental circulation. To address this, we explored the effect of oxygen tension on the expression of VEGF, placenta growth factor (PlGF), and their antagonist, soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase-1 (sFlt-1) using ELISA and real-time PCR in a primary CT cell culture. For comparison, the same was conducted in parallel using other cells comprising placenta, such as human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) and villous fibroblasts (VFs). Reduced oxygen resulted in a pronounced increase in sFlt-1 mRNA amount and sFlt-1 release into the culture media in CTs, whereas this was not the case with HUVECs and VFs. Free (not bound to sFlt-1) VEGF was not detected in CT culture media regardless of oxygen concentration, even though VEGF expression was stimulated by reduced oxygen in CTs, which was similar to the stimulation in HUVECs and VFs. Free PlGF was also diminished in CT culture media by reduced oxygen. These results implicate that CTs possess a unique property to enhance sFlt-1 production under reduced oxygen, which could consequently antagonize angiogenic activity of VEGF and PlGF. The presented findings might provide a framework with which to understand the mechanism of uterine vascular remodeling and its perturbations as exemplified in preeclampsia.

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