Aspects of human fetoplacental vasculogenesis and angiogenesis. II. Changes during normal pregnancy

Placenta. 2004 Feb-Mar;25(2-3):114-26. doi: 10.1016/j.placenta.2003.10.009.


In this second review, we describe the main morphological events which accompany the development of the fetoplacental vascular system throughout normal human pregnancy and summarize findings on the expression of angiogenic growth factors and their receptors. Fetoplacental vasculogenesis starts at day 21 after conception by formation of haemangioblastic cords. In the following phase of branching angiogenesis (day 32 to week 25 post conception), haemangioblastic cords develop into a richly branched villous capillary bed with low fetoplacental blood flow impedance. This period is characterized by high placental levels of VEGF but moderate PlGF expression. In week 15, large centrally located villi show regression of peripheral capillary nets. In parallel, some remaining central capillaries acquire a tunica media and transform into arteries and veins. Beginning at about week 25 in the newly formed peripheral villi, angiogenesis switches from branching to non-branching and this period is accompanied by a steep drop in VEGF and a slower decline in PlGF expression. As a consequence of this switch, long poorly branched capillary loops are formed in the periphery of the fetoplacental vascular trees. These increase fetoplacental impedance but blood flow still increases due to rising fetal blood pressure. The possible interactions between (a). the biphasic development of intraplacental oxygen tensions, (b). changes in VEGF and PlGF levels and (c). developing vascular geometry are discussed. Special attention is given to the obvious discrepancy between sudden elevation of intervillous oxygen tensions which is not coincident with the appearance of angiogenic growth factor peaks and the switch from branching to non-branching angiogenesis. Finally, we deal with methods of quantifying aspects of angiogenesis in the villous vascular system and summarize the main findings during uncomplicated human pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Capillaries / growth & development
  • Capillaries / metabolism
  • Chorionic Villi / blood supply*
  • Chorionic Villi / growth & development*
  • Chorionic Villi / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic*
  • Pregnancy / physiology*
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / metabolism


  • Membrane Proteins
  • PIGF protein, human
  • Proteins
  • VEGFA protein, human
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A