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Cell Tissue Res. 1998 Jan;291(1):133-48.

Immunohistochemistry of matrix metalloproteinases (MMP), their substrates, and their inhibitors (TIMP) during trophoblast invasion in the human placenta.

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Department of Anatomy, RWTH Aachen, Wendlingweg 2, D-52057 Aachen, Germany.


The invasion of extravillous trophoblast cells into the maternal endometrium is one of the key events in human placentation. The ability of these cells to infiltrate the uterine wall and to anchor the placenta to it as well as their ability to infiltrate and to adjust utero-placental vessels to pregnancy depends, among other things, on their ability to secrete enzymes that degrade the extracellular matrix. Most of the latter enzymes belong to the family of matrix metalloproteinases. Their activity is regulated by the tissue inhibitors of matrix metalloproteinases. We have studied the distribution patterns of matrix metalloproteinases-1, -2, -3, and -9 and their inhibitors TIMP-1 and TIMP-2 as compared to the distribution of their substrates along the invasive pathway of extravillous trophoblast of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd trimester placentas by means of light microscopy on paraffin and cryostat sections as well as at the ultrastructural level (only 3rd trimester placenta). The comparison of different methods proved to be necessary, since the immunohistochemical distribution patterns of these soluble enzymes are considerably influenced by the pretreatment of tissues. All three methods revealed immunoreactivities of both, proteinases and their inhibitors, not only intracellularly in the extravillous trophoblast but also extracellularly in its surrounding matrix, the distribution patterns depending on the stage of pregnancy and on the degree of differentiation of trophoblast cells along their invasive pathway. Within the extracellular matrix, immunolocalization of matrix metalloproteinases as well as their inhibitors showed a specific relation to certain extracellular matrix molecules.

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