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Placenta. 2007 Oct;28(10):1024-31. Epub 2007 Jun 22.

Cell type-specific expression and function of toll-like receptors 2 and 4 in human placenta: implications in fetal infection.

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Department of Obstetrics/Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, Yale University School of Medicine, 333 Cedar Street-339 FMB, PO Box 208063, New Haven, CT 06520-8063, USA.


Placental infection is associated with adverse fetal outcomes. Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are critical regulators of the innate immune response based on their ability to recognize and respond to pathogen-associated molecular patterns expressed by microbes. To date, cell-type specific expression and regulation of TLR function in human term placenta remains largely unelucidated. The goal of the current study was to examine the in vivo and in vitro patterns of TLR expression and function in major cell types of term placenta. Immunohistochemical analysis of terminal and stem villi localized TLR-2, which recognizes peptidoglycan (PG) from Gram-positive bacteria, to endothelial cells and macrophages, and to a lesser extent to syncytiotrophoblast (SCTs) and fibroblasts (FIBs). Staining for TLR-4, the receptor for Gram-negative bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS), was most prominent in SCTs and endothelial cells. Results from Western blotting, conventional, and quantitative PCR (qRTPCR) analyses using protein and mRNA isolated from cultures of SCTs and myofibroblasts (mFIBs) revealed that SCTs expressed TLR-2 and TLR-4, whereas mFIBs expressed only TLR-4. In addition, qRTPCR showed that LPS treatment increased TLR-2 expression in SCTs, indicating that infection with Gram-negative bacteria may enhance innate immune responses in placenta toward a broad range of microorganisms. In addition, treatment with LPS increased IL-8 levels in both SCTs and mFIBs, whereas PG treatment only stimulated IL-8 levels in SCTs. Our results indicate that there exist cell type-specific patterns of TLR function in placenta which likely regulate innate immune response at the maternal-fetal interface.

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