Retinoids stimulate leptin synthesis and secretion in human syncytiotrophoblast

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2000 Jul;85(7):2550-5. doi: 10.1210/jcem.85.7.6695.


The syncytiotrophoblast (ST), which forms the outer layer of the chorionic villi, is the endocrine unit of the human placenta. Bathing in the maternal blood of the intervillous space, the ST secretes its hormonal products directly into the maternal circulation. Leptin is expressed in the ST and is secreted into the maternal circulation. However, its regulation and physiological role during pregnancy remain poorly known. In the present work we used the in vitro model of human cytotrophoblast differentiation into ST to study the effect of physiological and synthetic retinoids on leptin synthesis and secretion. Using specific antibodies we first illustrated by immunocytochemistry the expression of retinoic acid (RA) receptor alpha and retinoid X receptor alpha (RXRalpha) in ST. We then observed that leptin messenger ribonucleic acid and protein expression increased with in vitro ST formation. The 9-cis isomer of RA and the synthetic retinoid specific for RXRs (BMS 649) stimulated leptin messenger ribonucleic acid expression and secretion. In contrast, all-trans-RA and a RA alpha-specific ligand had no effect. These results suggest that retinoids regulate leptin expression and highlight a role for RXRalpha in this process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alitretinoin
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Female
  • Giant Cells / cytology
  • Giant Cells / drug effects
  • Giant Cells / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Leptin / biosynthesis*
  • Leptin / metabolism
  • Placenta / cytology
  • Placenta / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • Receptors, Retinoic Acid / agonists
  • Retinoid X Receptors
  • Retinoids / pharmacology*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Transcription Factors / agonists
  • Tretinoin / pharmacology
  • Trophoblasts / drug effects
  • Trophoblasts / metabolism*


  • Leptin
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Retinoic Acid
  • Retinoid X Receptors
  • Retinoids
  • Transcription Factors
  • Alitretinoin
  • Tretinoin