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Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2000 Apr;11(2):105-13.

Genetic insights into trophoblast differentiation and placental morphogenesis.

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Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital, and the Departments of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, and Molecular & Medical Genetics, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, M5G 1X5, Canada.


The placenta is comprised of an inner vascular network covered by an outer epithelium, called trophoblast, all designed to promote the delivery of nutrients to the fetus. Several specialized trophoblast cell subtypes arise during development to promote this function, including cells that invade the uterus to promote maternal blood flow to the implantation site, and other cells that fuse into a syncytium, expand and fold to increase the surface area for efficient transport. Mutation of many genes in mice results in embryonic mortality or fetal growth restriction due to defects in placental development. Several important principles about placental development have emerged from these studies. First, distinct molecular pathways regulate the differentiation of the various trophoblast cell subtypes. Second, trophoblast proliferation, differentiation and morphogenesis are highly regulated by interactions with adjacent cell types. Finally, the specific classes of mutant phenotypes observed in the placenta of knockout mice resemble those seen in humans that are associated with preeclampsia and intrauterine growth restriction.

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