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Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2006 Jul;195(1):29-39. Epub 2006 Mar 31.

Apoptosis and its role in the trophoblast.

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Department of Anatomy II, University Hospital RWTH, Aachen, Germany.


During early placentation the trophoblast of the human placenta differentiates to the villous and extravillous types of trophoblast. Villous trophoblast provides the epithelial cover of the placental villous trees in direct contact to maternal blood. Extravillous trophoblast invades maternal uterine tissues thus directly contacting maternal stromal and immune cells. A subset of extravillous trophoblast, endovascular trophoblast initially occludes the lumen of spiral arteries and comes into direct contact with maternal blood. In recent years apoptosis has been described in both types of trophoblast and the importance of this cascade for the normal function of the trophoblast has become obvious. One feature of serious conditions such as preeclampsia or intrauterine growth restriction is changes in apoptosis regulation in villous and/or extravillous trophoblast resulting in altered trophoblast invasion and/or shedding into the maternal circulation. This review summarizes recent findings on trophoblast apoptosis in normal and pathologic pregnancies.

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