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Mol Hum Reprod. 2006 Oct;12(10):601-9. Epub 2006 Aug 8.

Tumour necrosis factor-alpha impairs chorionic gonadotrophin beta-subunit expression and cell fusion of human villous cytotrophoblast.

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.


Growth factors expressed at the fetal-maternal interface modulate hormone expression of placental trophoblasts. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of different cytokines on hCG subunit mRNA expression in differentiating villous cytotrophoblasts. Quantitative real-time PCR revealed a 1.8- and 6.9-fold increase of hCG-alpha and hCG-beta mRNA levels, respectively, between 36 and 60 h of term trophoblast syncytialization. Compared with controls, neither interleukin (IL)-1beta, IL-2, IL-4, IL-6, IL-10, IL-13 and IL-15 nor tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha significantly altered hCG-alpha mRNA expression. Similarly, the ILs did not affect hCG-beta transcript levels. In contrast, TNF-alpha suppressed hCG-beta mRNA 3.8- and 1.8-fold at 36 and 60 h of term trophoblast differentiation. Accordingly, hCG secretion was impaired by TNF-alpha but not by the different ILs. Moreover, TNF-alpha reduced luciferase expression of reporter plasmids harbouring the proximal hCG-beta5 promoter to 35 and 77%, respectively, in primary term trophoblasts and trophoblastic SHGPL-5 cells. In addition, counting of nuclei in syncytialized, desmoplakin-negative areas revealed a 1.9-fold reduction of term trophoblast fusion in the presence of TNF-alpha. Similarly, floating explant cultures prepared from first trimester-denuded villi recovered the syncytium 2.8-fold less efficiently during 72 h of cytokine treatment. Concomitantly, TNF-alpha impaired induction of endogenous and secreted hCG-beta protein levels in these cultures. The data suggest that TNF-alpha decreases hCG-beta mRNA and protein expression by reducing gene transcription and trophoblast cell fusion. Suppression of these processes by TNF-alpha could partly explain the adverse effects of the cytokine on placental function and pregnancy outcome.

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