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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Molecular organization of tight and adherens junctions in the human placental vascular tree.

Tight and adherens junctions are major determinants of endothelial integrity. Molecules present therein have been implicated in vascular permeability, stability of junctions, angiogenesis and intracellular signalling. Using immunofluorescence and confocal scanning microscopy, the adherens junctions (AJs) in human placental vessels were found to contain the entire cadherin-catenin complex predicted from in vitro studies. Vascular endothelial cadherin (VE-cadherin) clusters were co-localized with beta-catenin, an important signal transduction ligand, and with alpha-catenin, which is thought to link the complex to the peri-junctional actin. Antibodies to plakoglobin, a molecule shown to be a component of stable adherens junctions, revealed immunoreactivity in clefts of stromal villous vessels, but weak or negative immunoreactivity in intermediate and terminal villi. Tight junctional molecules demonstrated a differential surface expression. Within the same villous tree, arteries, veins and arterioles contained occludin but the exchange vessels in terminal villi were immunonegative. ZO-1, however, was present throughout. Ultrastructurally, there were no differences in frequency, position or dimension of tight junctions in these vessels. They showed a consistent 4 nm separation between outer membrane leaflets regardless of their location in the vascular tree. Occludin is not necessary for formation of tight junctions in the placenta; it may have an accessory role providing stability or added adhesiveness to tight junctions of large vessels. Its absence in terminal villous microvessels, along with the weak plakoglobin immunoreactivity in AJs, suggest that the junctions here are less stable. This may allow the increased plasticity necessary in terminal villi for continual growth, proliferation and solute exchange.[1]


  1. Molecular organization of tight and adherens junctions in the human placental vascular tree. Leach, L., Lammiman, M.J., Babawale, M.O., Hobson, S.A., Bromilou, B., Lovat, S., Simmonds, M.J. Placenta (2000) [Pubmed]
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