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Am J Pathol. 1991 Aug;139(2):327-35.

Tumor necrosis factor alpha mRNA and protein are present in human placental and uterine cells at early and late stages of gestation.

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Department of Pathology, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City 66103.


Tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha), a polypeptide that regulates cellular growth and modulates the synthesis of various cell surface and secreted molecules, has been identified in the pregnant uterus. To determine which specific cells transcribed and translated this gene, extraembryonic fetal tissues (placenta and membranes) and uterine tissue from early and late stages of gestation were analyzed for TNF-alpha mRNA by in situ hybridization using biotinylated antisense and sense TNF-alpha probes, and for immunoreactive TNF-alpha using two monoclonal antibodies. Tumor necrosis factor-alpha transcripts and protein were identified in both extraembryonic and maternal cells. In first-trimester placental villi, TNF-alpha mRNA was present in syncytiotrophoblast but was low to absent in cytotrophoblast and villous stromal cells. Decidual and epithelial cells in maternal tissues contained TNF-alpha transcripts. In term placentas, both syncytiotrophoblast and villous stromal cells contained TNF-alpha mRNA, and transcripts were present in maternal cells in the decidua adjacent to the extraplacental membranes. In both first-trimester and term tissues, coincident expression of TNF-alpha mRNA and immunoreactive TNF-alpha was demonstrated. The results of this study show that TNF-alpha is synthesized by cells in both extraembryonic membranes and maternal tissues during human gestation and that transcription in specific types of cells is influenced by gestational age. These observations are consistent with a major role for TNF-alpha in the dynamic developmental events of human pregnancy.

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