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Dev Biol. 2004 Feb 15;266(2):223-37.

Heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor regulates human extravillous cytotrophoblast development during conversion to the invasive phenotype.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, CS Mott Center for Human Growth and Development, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, MI 48201-1415, USA.


Cytotrophoblasts of the anchoring villi convert during human placentation from a transporting epithelium to an invasive, extravillous phenotype that expresses a distinct repertoire of adhesion molecules. Developing extravillous trophoblasts accumulate heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor (HB-EGF), a multifunctional cytokine, which binds HER1 and HER4 of the human EGF receptor (HER/ErbB) family. HB-EGF is downregulated in placentae of women with preeclampsia, a disorder associated with deficient trophoblast invasion, raising important questions about its physiological impact on cytotrophoblasts. Addition of HB-EGF during explant culture of first-trimester chorionic villi enhanced extravillous trophoblast differentiation and invasive activity. Using a first-trimester human cytotrophoblast line, the potential for autocrine and paracrine regulation of the developing trophoblast was established based on the expression of all four HER isoforms, as well as HB-EGF and related growth factors. HB-EGF did not alter proliferation, but initiated extravillous differentiation, with decreased alpha6 integrin expression, increased alpha1, and elevated cell migration. Function-blocking antibodies against EGF family members reduced basal cell motility and antibody inhibition of either HER1 or HER4 ligation prevented HB-EGF-induced integrin switching. We conclude that HER-mediated autocrine and paracrine signaling by HB-EGF or other EGF family members induces cytotrophoblast differentiation to an invasive phenotype.

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