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Cell Death Differ. 2004 Jan;11(1):90-8.

Syncytial fusion of human trophoblast depends on caspase 8.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy, University Hospital Aachen, Germany.


Differentiation of human placental villous trophoblast includes syncytial fusion of cytotrophoblast forming syncytiotrophoblast. Early stages of the apoptosis cascade were described to be involved in this differentiation process. We investigated the role of the initiator caspase 8 in syncytial fusion in vitro, cultivating placental villous explants with or without caspase 8 antisense oligonucleotides or peptide inhibitors for up to 120 h. Trophoblast fusion and differentiation were assessed by confocal microscopy, immunohistochemistry and Western blot analysis. Culture with caspase 8 antisense oligonucleotides or peptide inhibitors reduced the fusion of cytotrophoblast with the syncytiotrophoblast, and resulted in multilayered cytotrophoblast. Caspase 8 expression was suppressed by antisense oligonucleotides and caspase 8 activities were reduced by peptide inhibitors. The organic anion-transporter hOAT-4 normally expressed in the cytotrophoblast and transferred into the syncytiotrophoblast by syncytial fusion was retained in the cytotrophoblast due to lack of fusion. We conclude that expression and activity of caspase 8 is a prerequisite for differentiation and syncytial fusion of cytotrophoblast cells.

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