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Lab Invest. 1994 Oct;71(4):560-6.

Localization of pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A and colocalization of pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A messenger ribonucleic acid and eosinophil granule major basic protein messenger ribonucleic acid in placenta.

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  • 1Department of Immunology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota.



The human eosinophil granule major basic protein (MBP), a 13.8 kilodalton cationic polypeptide constituting the core of the eosinophil granule, is cytotoxic to parasites and numerous mammalian cells. Concentrations of a molecule immunochemically similar to eosinophil granule MBP are present in maternal plasma, and MBP mRNA has been localized to placental X cells by in situ hybridization. Eosinophil granule MBP is initially translated as a nontoxic precursor (proMBP), containing a 9.9 kilodalton acidic pro-portion that is believed to neutralize MBP toxicity. Recent analyses of sera from pregnant women have revealed that pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A (PAPP-A), previously thought to be a homotetramer of PAPP-A subunits, is actually composed of PAPP-A subunits bound by disulfide bonds to equimolar amounts of proMBP molecules to form a complex, PAPP-A/proMBP. In addition, the PAPP-A subunit nucleotide and deduced amino acid sequence have been determined from cloned cDNA. The PAPP-A monomer found in plasma contains 1547 amino acid residues.


Because of the new evidence that PAPP-A is complexed with proMBP, previous studies on the localization of PAPP-A using antibodies to PAPP-A must be questioned. To determine the localization of the PAPP-A subunit, immunofluorescence was performed on normal placental tissues using proMBP absorbed anti-PAPP-A antibody. Furthermore, the expression of PAPP-A mRNA was investigated by in situ hybridization.


Immunofluorescence staining with proMBP absorbed anti-PAPP-A antibody showed that PAPP-A is localized to placental septa, anchoring villi, and the syncytia of chorionic villi, whereas MBP is localized only to septa and anchoring villi. By in situ hybridization, PAPP-A mRNA is detected in placental X cells and syncytiotrophoblasts, but MBP mRNA is localized only to placental X cells.


The presence of PAPP-A mRNA and PAPP-A subunit protein in placental X cells and syncytiotrophoblasts indicates that both X cells and syncytiotrophoblasts synthesize the PAPP-A subunit, whereas only X cells synthesize proMBP.

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