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Placenta. 2012 Feb;33 Suppl:S55-62. doi: 10.1016/j.placenta.2011.09.019. Epub 2011 Oct 21.

IFPA Award in Placentology lecture: molecular regulation of human trophoblast invasion.

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Department of Obstetrics and Fetal-Maternal Medicine, Reproductive Biology Unit, Medical University of Vienna, Waehringer Guertel 18-20, Vienna, Austria.


Invasion of extravillous trophoblast cell types into maternal uterine tissues is essential for successful human placental development and progression of pregnancy. Whereas endovascular trophoblasts migrate into the maternal spiral arteries, interstitial trophoblasts invade the decidual stroma, colonize the vessels from outside and communicate with diverse uterine cell types such as decidual stromal cells, macrophages and uterine NK cells. For example, interstitial trophoblasts expressing polymorphic human leukocyte antigen-C interact with uterine NK cells through binding to their killer immunoglobulin-like receptors which likely plays a role in trophoblast invasion and reproductive success of pregnancy. Both extravillous trophoblast subtypes are critically involved in the vascular transformation of the spiral arteries into dilated conduits ensuring appropriate blood flow into the intervillous space. Failures in this remodeling process are thought to be associated with severe forms of fetal growth restriction, preeclampsia and other pregnancy complications warranting studies on the molecular regulation of extravillous trophoblast differentiation. Moreover, interstitial trophoblast-derived hormones may regulate diverse biological functions in the decidua. In particular, human chorionic gonadotrophin has been shown to promote angiogenesis and to suppress apoptosis of endometrial stromal cells. In return, decidual cells produce a plethora of soluble factors controlling trophoblast invasion in a time- and distance-dependent manner. However, the underlying mechanisms have not been fully elucidated. Here, we will summarize autocrine as well as paracrine factors regulating invasion of extravillous trophoblasts and discuss critical signaling cascades involved. In addition, we will focus on key regulatory transcription factors controlling cell column proliferation and differentiation of the human extravillous trophoblast.

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