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Histol Histopathol. 2007 Jan;22(1):1-8. doi: 10.14670/HH-22.1.

Modulation of apelin and APJ receptor in normal and preeclampsia-complicated placentas.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Second University of Naples, Naples, Italy.


Apelin is an endogenous ligand of the human orphan receptor APJ. This peptide is produced through processing from the C-terminal portion in the pre-pro-protein consisting of 77 amino acid residues and exists in multiple molecular forms. Although the main physiological functions of apelin have not yet been clarified, it is known that apelin is involved in the regulation of blood pressure, blood flow and central control of body fluid homeostasis in different organs. Since human placenta is a tissue where vasculogenesis, blood pressure and flow are dramatically important to allow a normal embryonic and fetal growth and development, the aim of the present study was to investigate the immunohistochemical distribution of apelin and APJ in normal placentas throughout pregnancy and in preeclampsia-complicated placentas. Specifically, we observed that in normal placentas the expression levels of apelin decreased from the first to the third trimester of gestation in both cytotrophoblast and syncytiotrophoblast cells and in the stroma of placental villi, in contrast with increased expression levels of APJ in the cytoplasm of cytotrophoblast cells and in the cytoplasm of endothelial cells of normal placenta samples. In contrast, in preeclampsia-complicated pregnancies, we observed a very strong increase of expression levels of both apelin and APJ receptor in all the placental compartments, cytotrophoblast, syncytiotrophoblast and stroma with a particular increase in endothelial cells inside preeclamptic placental villi. Our data seem to indicate an important role of apelin and APJ in the regulation of fetal development through a correct regulation of human placenta formation during pregnancy. Moreover, the strong expression levels of apelin and APJ in preeclamptic placentas, suggest their possible involvement in the onset of this pathology.

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