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Placenta. 2013 Jul;34(7):536-43. doi: 10.1016/j.placenta.2013.03.016. Epub 2013 Apr 28.

Comparison of extravillous trophoblast cells derived from human embryonic stem cells and from first trimester human placentas.

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University of Maryland, Animal and Avian Sciences, College Park, MD 20742, USA.



Preeclampsia and other placental pathologies are characterized by a lack of spiral artery remodeling associated with insufficient invasion by extravillous trophoblast cells (EVT). Because trophoblast invasion occurs in early pregnancy when access to human placental tissue is limited, there is a need for model systems for the study of trophoblast differentiation and invasion. Human embryonic stem cells (hESC) treated with BMP4- differentiate to trophoblast, and express HLA-G, a marker of EVT. The goals of the present study were to further characterize the HLA-G(+) cells derived from BMP4-treated hESC, and determine their suitability as a model.


HESC were treated with BMP4 under 4% or 20% oxygen and tested in Matrigel invasion chambers. Both BMP4-treated hESC and primary human placental cells were separated into HLA-G(+) and HLA-G(-)/TACSTD2(+) populations with immunomagnetic beads and expression profiles analyzed by microarray.


There was a 10-fold increase in invasion when hESC were BMP4-treated. There was also an independent, stimulatory effect of oxygen on this process. Invasive cells expressed trophoblast marker KRT7, and the majority were also HLA-G(+). Gene expression profiles revealed that HLA-G(+), BMP4-treated hESC were similar to, but distinct from, HLA-G(+) cells isolated from first trimester placentas. Whereas HLA-G(+) and HLA-G(-) cells from first trimester placentas had highly divergent gene expression profiles, HLA-G(+) and HLA-G(-) cells from BMP4-treated hESC had somewhat similar profiles, and both expressed genes characteristic of early trophoblast development.


We conclude that hESC treated with BMP4 provide a model for studying transition to the EVT lineage.

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