Trophoblast cells express urokinase-type plasminogen activator (PLAU) and may depend on its activity for endometrial invasion and tissue remodeling during peri-implantation development. However, the developmental regulation, tissue distribution, and function of PLAU are not completely understood. In this study, the expression of PLAU and its regulation by extracellular matrix proteins was examined by RT-PCR, immunocytochemistry, and plasminogen–casein zymography in cultured mouse embryos. There was a progressive increase in Plau mRNA expression in blastocysts cultured on gestation days 4–8. Tissue-type plasminogen activator (55 kDa) and PLAU (a triplet of 40, 37, and 31 kDa) were present in conditioned medium and embryo lysates, and were adsorbed to the culture plate surface. The temporal expression pattern of PLAU, according to semi-quantitative gel zymography, was similar in non-adhering embryos and embryos cultured on fibronectin, laminin, or type IV collagen, although type IV collagen and laminin upregulated Plau mRNA expression. Immunofluorescence revealed PLAU on the surface of the mural trophectoderm and in non-spreading giant trophoblast cells. Exogenous human plasminogen was transformed to plasmin by cultured embryos and activated endogenous matrix metalloproteinase 9 (MMP9). Indeed, the developmental expression profile of MMP9 was similar to that of PLAU. Our data suggest that the intrinsic developmental program predominantly regulates PLAU expression during implantation, and that PLAU could be responsible for activation of MMP9, leading to localized matrix proteolysis as trophoblast invasion commences.
M G Martínez-Hernández, L A Baiza-Gutman, A Castillo-Trápala and D Randall Armant
D Randall Armant, Graham W Aberdeen, Brian A Kilburn, Gerald J Pepe and Eugene D Albrecht
Placental extravillous trophoblast remodeling of the uterine spiral arteries is important for promoting blood flow to the placenta and fetal development. Heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor (HB-EGF), an EGF family member, stimulates differentiation and invasive capacity of extravillous trophoblasts in vitro. Trophoblast expression and maternal levels of HB-EGF are reduced at term in women with preeclampsia, but it is uncertain whether HB-EGF is downregulated earlier when it may contribute to placental insufficiency. A nonhuman primate model has been established in which trophoblast remodeling of the uterine spiral arteries is suppressed by shifting the rise in estrogen from the second to the first trimester of baboon pregnancy. In the present study, we used this model to determine if placental HB-EGF is altered by prematurely elevating estrogen early in baboon gestation. Uterine spiral artery remodeling and placental expression of HB-EGF and other EGF family members were assessed on day 60 of gestation in baboons treated with estradiol (E2) daily between days 25 and 59 of gestation (term = 184 days). The percentages of spiral artery remodeling were 90, 84 and 70% lower (P < 0.01), respectively, for vessels of 26–50, 51–100 and >100 µm diameter in E2-treated compared with untreated baboons. HB-EGF protein quantified by immunocytochemical staining/image analysis was decreased three-fold (P < 0.01) in the placenta of E2-treated versus untreated baboons, while amphiregulin (AREG) and EGF expression was unaltered. Therefore, we propose that HB-EGF modulates the estrogen-sensitive remodeling of the uterine spiral arteries by the extravillous trophoblast in early baboon pregnancy.