Expression of the fusogenic HERV-FRD Env glycoprotein (syncytin 2) in human placenta is restricted to villous cytotrophoblastic cells.

PMID 16714059


Recently, the expression of a human endogenous retrovirus HERV-FRD, able to encode a fusogenic envelope protein (syncytin 2), has been observed in human placenta. The aim of the present study was to localize the expression of syncytin 2 in first trimester placenta. In addition, we investigated the presence of HERV-FRD transcripts during the in vitro differentiation of isolated villous and extravillous trophoblastic cells from first trimester chorionic villi. Using a monoclonal antibody specifically raised against the HERV-FRD Env protein, syncytin 2 was immunolocalized only in the villous trophoblast of the chorionic villi, at the level of cytotrophoblastic cells. Interestingly, immunostaining was not observed in all cells but only in some of them, and was detected, more frequently, at the membrane level at the interface between the cytotrophoblastic cells and syncytiotrophoblast. Labeling was observed neither in the syncytiotrophoblast nor in the mesenchymal core of the villi nor in the extravillous trophoblast. In vitro detection of HERV-FRD transcripts was restricted to villous trophoblastic cells and decreased significantly with time in culture. These results suggest that syncytin 2 might play a role in human trophoblastic cell fusion.