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Reprod Biomed Online. 2016 Jan;32(1):14-43. doi: 10.1016/j.rbmo.2015.10.005. Epub 2015 Oct 27.

The endocrine function of human placenta: an overview.

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Faculdade de Farmácia, Universidade do Porto, Porto, Portugal. Electronic address:


During pregnancy, several tightly coordinated and regulated processes take place to enable proper fetal development and gestational success. The formation and development of the placenta is one of these critical pregnancy events. This organ plays essential roles during gestation, including fetal nourishment, support and protection, gas exchange and production of several hormones and other mediators. Placental hormones are mainly secreted by the syncytiotrophoblast, in a highly and tightly regulated way. These hormones are important for pregnancy establishment and maintenance, exerting autocrine and paracrine effects that regulate decidualization, placental development, angiogenesis, endometrial receptivity, embryo implantation, immunotolerance and fetal development. In addition, because they are released into maternal circulation, the profile of their blood levels throughout pregnancy has been the target of intense research towards finding potential robust and reliable biomarkers to predict and diagnose pregnancy-associated complications. In fact, altered levels of these hormones have been associated with some pathologies, such as chromosomal anomalies or pre-eclampsia. This review proposes to revise and update the main pregnancy-related hormones, addressing their major characteristics, molecular targets, function throughout pregnancy, regulators of their expression and their potential clinical interest.


placental hormones, peptide hormones, pregnancy, steroid hormones, syncytiotrophoblast

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