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

EPHB4 regulates chemokine-evoked trophoblast responses: a mechanism for incorporating the human placenta into the maternal circulation.

In humans, fetal cytotrophoblasts leave the placenta and enter the uterine wall, where they preferentially remodel arterioles. The fundamental mechanisms that govern these processes are largely unknown. Previously, we have shown that invasive cytotrophoblasts express several chemokines, as well as the receptors with which they interact. Here, we report that these ligand-receptor interactions stimulate cytotrophoblast migration to approximately the same level as a growth factor cocktail that includes serum. Additionally, cytotrophoblast commitment to uterine invasion was accompanied by rapid downregulation of EPHB4, a transmembrane receptor associated with venous identity, and upregulation of ephrin B1. Within the uterine wall, the cells also upregulated expression of ephrin B2, an EPH transmembrane ligand that is associated with arterial identity. In vitro cytotrophoblasts avoided EPHB4-coated substrates; upon co-culture with 3T3 cells expressing this molecule, their migration was significantly inhibited. As to the mechanisms involved, cytotrophoblast interactions with EPHB4 downregulated chemokine-induced but not growth factor-stimulated migration. We propose that EPHB4/ ephrin B1 interactions generate repulsive signals that direct cytotrophoblast invasion toward the uterus, where chemokines stimulate cytotrophoblast migration through the decidua. When cytotrophoblasts encounter EPHB4 expressed by venous endothelium, ephrin B-generated repulsive signals and a reduction in chemokine-mediated responses limit their interaction with veins. When they encounter ephrin B2 ligands expressed in uterine arterioles, migration is permitted. The net effect is preferential cytotrophoblast remodeling of arterioles, a hallmark of human placentation.[1]


  1. EPHB4 regulates chemokine-evoked trophoblast responses: a mechanism for incorporating the human placenta into the maternal circulation. Red-Horse, K., Kapidzic, M., Zhou, Y., Feng, K.T., Singh, H., Fisher, S.J. Development (2005) [Pubmed]
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