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Am J Pathol. 2006 Apr;168(4):1134-47.

Activation of the canonical wingless/T-cell factor signaling pathway promotes invasive differentiation of human trophoblast.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Medical University of Vienna, AKH, Waehringer Guertel 18-20, A-1090 Vienna, Austria.


The molecular mechanisms governing invasive differentiation of human trophoblasts remain largely elusive. Here, we investigated the role of Wnt-beta-catenin-T-cell factor (TCF) signaling in this process. Reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction and Western blot analyses demonstrated expression of Wnt ligands, frizzled receptors, LRP-6, and TCF-3/4 transcription factors in total placenta and different trophoblast cell models. Immunohistochemistry of placental tissues and differentiating villous explant cultures showed that expression of TCF-3/4 strongly increased in invading trophoblasts. Some of these cells also accumulated dephosphorylated beta-catenin in the nucleus. Wnt3A treatment of primary cytotrophoblasts and SGHPL-5 cells induced activity of TCF-luciferase reporters. Accordingly, the ligand provoked interaction of TCF-3/4 with beta-catenin as assessed in electrophoretic mobility shift assays (EMSAs) and up-regulation of Wnt/TCF target genes as observed by Western blot analyses. Wnt3A stimulated trophoblast migration and invasion through Matrigel, which could be blocked by addition of Dickkopf-1, mediating in-hibition of canonical Wnt signaling. Dickkopf-1 also reduced basal migration, invasion, and proliferation of cytotrophoblasts, suggesting expression of endogenous Wnt ligand(s). Immunohistochemistry revealed that the percentage of extravillous trophoblasts containing nuclear beta-catenin was significantly higher in placentas of complete hydatidiform mole pregnancies as compared to normal placentas. Thus, canonical Wnt signaling may promote invasive trophoblast differentiation, and exaggerated activation of the path-way could contribute to trophoblastic hyperplasia and local invasion.

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