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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1995 Jul;80(7):2021-6.

Expression of pit-1 messenger ribonucleic acid and protein in the human placenta.

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  • 1Laboratory of Developmental Neurobiology, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


It is well established that the human placenta produces a wide range of hormones similar to those secreted by the pituitary and hypothalamus. However, the physiological role and regulation of placental hormone synthesis and release are still largely unknown. GH (GH-N) is expressed in the pituitary, where it requires the tissue-specific transcription factor Pit-1. Chorionic somatomammotropin A (CS-A) and CS-B as well as the placental GH variant (GH-V), which also belong to the GH gene family and are located in the same chromosomal cluster, are expressed in the placental syncytiotrophoblast. The presence of Pit-1-binding sites in the CS-A and GH-V promoter regions predicts that Pit-1 may be expressed in the placenta. However, this has not yet been demonstrated. To examine possible similarities in the regulation of these genes in the pituitary and placenta, we studied the expression of pit-1 messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) in the human placenta, transformed human placental cells, and the JEG-3 choriocarcinoma cell line. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) products of the expected size were amplified from first and third trimester placentas, transformed placental cells, and JEG-3 complementary DNA by reverse transcription-PCR. The pit-1-specific sequence was confirmed by restriction endonuclease digestion, Southern hybridization, and DNA sequencing. Human pituitary tissue was used as a positive control; no PCR product was obtained from hippocampus (negative control). In situ hybridization of placental tissue sections revealed the presence of pit-1 mRNA in first and third trimester syncytiotrophoblast. Pit-1 protein was localized by immunohistochemistry with the same tissue distribution and a nuclear localization pattern. These data demonstrate expression of pit-1 mRNA and Pit-1 protein in the human placenta, thus questioning its role as a pituitary-specific regulator of GH-N gene transcription. The expression of Pit-1 in the placenta, together with its previously demonstrated capability to bind to and activate the CS-A and the GH-V promoters, suggests that it may play a role in the regulation of hormones belonging to the GH gene family in both pituitary and placenta.

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