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Clin Exp Reprod Med. 2013 Mar;40(1):33-7. doi: 10.5653/cerm.2013.40.1.33. Epub 2013 Mar 31.

Autophagy-related protein LC3 and Beclin-1 in the first trimester of pregnancy.

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Department of Translational Research on New Technologies in Medicine and Surgery, University of Pisa Medical School, Pisa, Italy.


Autophagy is a degradation process that acts in response to environmental stressors. Recently, autophagy has been detected in normal term, preeclamptic and intrauterine growth-restricted placentas. The object of this work was to investigate the presence of autophagy in first trimester voluntary interruption of pregnancy placental villi by the expression of autophagy-related proteins, light chain 3 (LC3), and Beclin-1. In first trimester placental villi laser scanning confocal microscopy (LSCM) analysis revealed LC3 and Beclin-1 immunoreactivity prevalently located in villous cytotrophoblasts. Using LSCM, LC3, and Beclin-1 were localized to the cytoplasm of the trophoblast layer in human full-term placentas. Beclin-1 expression and LC3 activation were confirmed by western blotting. These data emphasize that autophagy activation is different among cytotrophoblasts and syncytiotrophoblasts depending on the gestational age and thus we speculate that autophagy might play a prosurvival role throughout human pregnancy.


Autophagy; Beclin-1; Cytotrophoblasts; Light chain 3; Syncytiotrophoblasts; Villi

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