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Dev Biol. 2011 Oct 1;358(1):231-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2011.07.036. Epub 2011 Aug 4.

Ablation of Tpbpa-positive trophoblast precursors leads to defects in maternal spiral artery remodeling in the mouse placenta.

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Department of Comparative Biology & Experimental Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.


The placenta is composed of multiple trophoblast cell types that have diverse endocrine, vascular and nutrient transport functions. We have developed a transgenic system to investigate the developmental and functional roles of specific cell types using conditional expression of a cytotoxin to induce cell ablation in transgenic mice. The Tpbpa gene is expressed in ectoplacental cone cells starting between embryonic days (E) 7.5 and 8.5, and later in the spongiotrophoblast layer of the mature placenta. Tpbpa-positive cells are progenitors of many trophoblast subtypes including three subtypes of trophoblast giant cells (TGCs) and glycogen trophoblast cells. We used a Cre recombinase transgene driven by the Tpbpa promoter to irreversibly activate a diphtheria toxin A (DTA) transgene. Cre/DTA double transgenic placentas showed dramatic reduction of Tpbpa-positive spongiotrophoblast cells by E10.5 and conceptuses died by ~E11.5. The number of cells associated with maternal blood spaces, spiral artery TGCs (SpA-TGCs) and canal TGCs, and glycogen trophoblast cells were reduced. The loss of these specific trophoblast subtypes, especially SpA-TGCs, was correlated with a decrease in maternal spiral artery diameters, indicating a critical role of these cells in modulating the maternal vasculature. In contrast, parietal TGCs were not significantly reduced by progenitor cell ablation, suggesting that there is compensatory growth of this population and indeed a population of Ascl2 (Mash2)-positive/Tpbpa-negative cells was increased in the spongiotrophoblast layer in the Cre/DTA double transgenics. Our work demonstrates that the Tpbpa-positive lineage is essential for placental function and particularly critical for maternal vasculature remodeling.

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