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Mechanisms of development

Novel expression of EGFL7 in placental trophoblast and endothelial cells and its implication in preeclampsia.


PMID 24751645

Abstract

The mammalian placenta is the site of nutrient and gas exchange between the mother and fetus, and is comprised of two principal cell types, trophoblasts and endothelial cells. Proper placental development requires invasion and differentiation of trophoblast cells, together with coordinated fetal vasculogenesis and maternal vascular remodeling. Disruption in these processes can result in placental pathologies such as preeclampsia (PE), a disease characterized by late gestational hypertension and proteinuria. Epidermal Growth Factor Like Domain 7 (EGFL7) is a largely endothelial-restricted secreted factor that is critical for embryonic vascular development, and functions by modulating the Notch signaling pathway. However, the role of EGFL7 in placental development remains unknown. In this study, we use mouse models and human placentas to begin to understand the role of EGFL7 during normal and pathological placentation. We show that Egfl7 is expressed by the endothelium of both the maternal and fetal vasculature throughout placental development. Importantly, we uncovered a previously unknown site of EGFL7 expression in the trophoblast cell lineage, including the trophectoderm, trophoblast stem cells, and placental trophoblasts. Our results demonstrate significantly reduced Egfl7 expression in human PE placentas, concurrent with a downregulation of Notch target genes. Moreover, using the BPH/5 mouse model of PE, we show that the downregulation of Egfl7 in compromised placentas occurs prior to the onset of characteristic maternal signs of PE. Together, our results implicate Egfl7 as a possible factor in normal placental development and in the etiology of PE.