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Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Oct 15;303(8):E950-8. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00087.2012. Epub 2012 Jul 17.

Comparative expression of hCG β-genes in human trophoblast from early and late first-trimester placentas.

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Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, UMR-S 767, Paris, France.


Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) displays a major role in pregnancy initiation and progression and is involved in trophoblast differentiation and fusion. However, the site and the type of dimeric hCG production during the first trimester of pregnancy is poorly known. At that time, trophoblastic plugs present in the uterine arteries disappear, allowing unrestricted flow of maternal blood to the intervillous space. The consequence is an important modification of the trophoblast environment, including a rise of oxygen levels from about 2.5% before 10 wk of amenorrhea (WA) to ∼8% after 12 WA. Two specific β-hCG proteins that differ from three amino acids have been described: type 1 (CGB7) and type 2 (CGB3, -5, and -8). Here, we demonstrated in situ and ex vivo on placental villi and in vitro in primary cultures of human cytotrophoblasts that type 1 and 2 β-hCG RNAs and proteins were expressed by trophoblasts and that these expressions were higher before blood enters in the intervillous space (8-9 vs. 12-14 WA). hCG was immunodetected in villous mononucleated cytotrophoblasts (VCT) and syncytiotrophoblast (ST) at 8-9 WA but only in ST at 12-14 WA. Furthermore, hCG secretion was fourfold higher in VCT cultures from 8-9 WA compared with 12-14 WA. Interestingly, VCT from 8-9 WA placentas were found to exhibit more fusion features. Taken together, we showed that type 1 and type 2 β-hCG are highly expressed by VCT in the early first trimester, contributing to the high levels of hCG found in maternal serum at this term.

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