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Placenta. 2003 May;24(5):540-8.

Pre-eclampsia and maternal anaemia display reduced apoptosis and opposite invasive phenotypes of extravillous trophoblast.

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Department of Anatomy, University Hospital, Aachen, Germany.


During pregnancy extravillous trophoblast invades maternal uterine tissues and remodels spiral arteries. Maternal anaemia and early onset pre-eclampsia are associated with perturbed trophoblast biology. We systematically compared numerical density, invasive depth and apoptosis rates of extravillous trophoblast in uterine tissues taken from hysterectomies following Caesarean section after normal pregnancies (n=4) or pregnancies complicated by pre-eclampsia (n=5) or anaemia (n=6). Full thickness sections of the placental bed were studied by immunohistochemistry using anti-active caspase 3, anti-cytokeratin 7, anti-lamin B, M30, Mib-1, anti-PARP, and by the TUNEL assay. In normal pregnancy extravillous trophoblast invaded 2.04+/-0.19 mm (mean+/-SEM ) from the endometrial-myometrial border into the myometrium; in pre-eclampsia 0.67+/-0.14 mm (P< 0.01), and in anaemia 3.84+/-0.21 mm (P< 0.001). The endometrial trophoblast density in normal pregnancy was 2.44+/-0.37 cells per 60,000 microm(3), in pre-eclampsia was 1.04+/-0.15 (P< 0.01), and in anaemia was 3.10+/-0.32. The rate of apoptotic extravillous trophoblast (M30-positive) in the endometrium in normal pregnancy was 7.17+/-1.46 per cent, in pre-eclampsia 4.4+/-0.71, and in anaemia 2.1+/-0.42 (P< 0.01). Maternal anaemia leads to general tissue hypoxia throughout gestation. Increased invasive depth could be explained by hypoxia-stimulated mitosis and decreased apoptosis of extravillous trophoblast. Reduced trophoblast invasion in pre-eclampsia cannot be explained by higher rates of apoptosis.

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