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Histopathology. 1995 Nov;27(5):407-14.

Antibodies to cytokeratins bind to epitopes in human uterine smooth muscle cells in normal and pathological pregnancies.

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  • 1Frauenklinik und Poliklinik, Universit√§tsklinikum Benjamin Franklin, Freie Universit√§t Berlin, Germany.


Cytokeratin antibodies have been widely used for the identification of trophoblast cells in the placental bed, following their invasion from the developing conceptus. Their identification centres upon the expression of cytokeratin in epithelial cells, from which trophoblast cells are derived. Our recent observations indicate that this strict relationship may be more complex than was thought. Cryostat and paraffin sections of human decidua and myometrium, taken from the placental bed and the uterotomy cut, were examined immunocytochemically for cytokeratins using ten antibody clones selected to identify different cytokeratin proteins and antigenic epitopes. Biopsy specimens were obtained from normal and pathological pregnancies (pre-eclampsia, fetal retardation, amnioninfection, hysterorrhexis, placenta praevia) at the time of caesarean section (26-41 weeks of pregnancy). Antibodies against nine clones, CAM 5.2, MNF 116, AE1/AE3, CK5, KS-B17.2, CY-90, M20, E3, and 34 beta E12 identified, as expected, syncytial giant cells and mononuclear trophoblasts within the placental bed and glandular epithelial cells throughout the uterus. In addition, they stained numerous fusiform cells that were classified by established criteria to represent smooth muscle cells, both within blood vessels and myometrium. No staining differences were observed between normal and pathological disorders. These results indicate that cytokeratin antibodies CAM 5.2, MNF 116 and AE1/AE3, and other antibodies targeting proteins 8 and 18, cross-react with epitopes expressed in cells other than giant trophoblastic cells and mononuclear trophoblasts in the uterus and, thus, caution has to be used when such antibodies are used for the diagnostic characterization of tissues related to the placental bed.

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