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Placenta. 2007 Nov-Dec;28(11-12):1219-28. Epub 2007 Sep 27.

Placental defects in alpha7 integrin null mice.

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Department of Pharmacology, University of Nevada, Reno, NV 89557, USA.


The alpha7beta1 integrin is a heterodimeric transmembrane receptor that links laminin in the extracellular matrix to the cell cytoskeleton. Loss of the alpha7 integrin chain results in partial embryonic lethality. We have previously shown that alpha7 integrin null embryos exhibit vascular smooth muscle cell defects that result in cerebral vascular hemorrhaging. Since the placenta is highly vascularized, we hypothesized that placental vascular defects in alpha7 integrin null embryos may contribute to the partial embryonic lethality. Placentae from embryonic day (ED) 9.5 and 13.5 alpha7 integrin knockout embryos showed structural defects including infiltration of the spongiotrophoblast layer into the placental labyrinth, a reduction in the placental labyrinth and loss of distinct placental layers. Embryos and placentae that lacked the alpha7 integrin weighed less compared to wild-type controls. Blood vessels within the placental labyrinth of alpha7 integrin null embryos exhibited fewer differentiated vascular smooth muscle cells compared to wild-type. Loss of the alpha7 integrin resulted in altered extracellular matrix deposition and reduced expression of alpha5 integrin. Together our results confirm a role for the alpha7beta1 integrin in placental vascular development and demonstrate for the first time that loss of the alpha7 integrin results in placental defects.

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