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J Reprod Immunol. 1993 Sep;25(1):15-29.

Phenotypic characterization of normal human placental mononuclear cells.

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  • 1Methodist Center for Reproduction and Transplantation Immunology, Methodist Hospital of Indiana, Indianapolis 46202.


The placenta is a rich source of immunocompetent cells. We have studied the phenotype, number and origin of placental mononuclear blood cells isolated from 32 normal term placentae using 4 color flow cytometry. Respective maternal and cord blood leucocyte preparations were also compared. Placental tissue without extraembryonic membranes was cut into small pieces and divided. One portion was washed extensively with ice-cold PBS. Both tissue portions were disrupted in a blender and cells were dissociated by using a 180 mu sieve. Leucocytes were isolated by Ficoll-Hypaque density gradient centrifugation. Maternal and cord bloods were HLA typed and in cases of HLA-A2 or B7/40 disparity, monoclonal anti-HLA antibodies to these antigens showed that unwashed placental tissue contained 35% maternal and 65% fetal cells. This ratio, however, was not reflected for a given cell phenotype. In comparison, washed placental tissue contained cells of fetal origin only. Both unwashed and washed placental tissue contained fewer CD3 and CD4, but more CD8 cells than maternal and cord blood. Markers of NK cells such as, CD16, CD56, and CD57 showed this cellular phenotype to be 15 times more abundant in the placental preparations than in cord and maternal blood. The quantitative differences between peripheral blood and placental CD8 and NK cells were further explored with an antiprogesterone receptor antibody in combination with anti-CD8, anti-CD57 and anti-HLA-DR. The number of progesterone receptor (PGR) positive cells was three times higher in placental tissues than in cord or maternal blood. These data indicate that the phenotypic frequencies of certain placental leucocytes are significantly different from maternal and fetal peripheral blood. Progesterone and the presence of PGR may be important in the differential retention of placental leucocytes.

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