Signal transduction in trophoblast invasion

Chem Immunol Allergy. 2005;88:181-199. doi: 10.1159/000087834.


During the first trimester of pregnancy, well-differentiated primary cells of the placenta known as trophoblast cells grow in an invasive and destructive fashion similar to malignancies, but limited in space and time. The comparison of trophoblast cells with their malignant counterpart, human choriocarcinoma cells, offers an attractive model to understand the origin or development of malignant growth. Several cytokines and growth factors are known to influence trophoblast migration (e.g. EGF, IGF-2, HGF), proliferation (e.g. leptin, HGF, GM-CSF) and/or invasion (e.g. leukemia inhibitory factor, LIF), each factor utilizing at least one pathway for intracellular signaling in the trophoblast. Two pathways that are crossed especially often mediate the signals of these factors and are simultaneously well established in terms of tumor invasion: the Janus kinase-signal transducers and activators of transcription (Jak-Stat) and receptor-associated tyrosine kinase-mitogen-activated protein kinase (RTK-MAPK) pathways. These two pathways are detrimental for reproduction in general, and in part for placenta development, as a series of knockout experiments demonstrate. Aspects of each pathway are also implicated to be involved in trophoblast invasion, e.g. STAT3 is constitutively activated in invasive first trimester trophoblast cells, and activated ERK is detectable in intermediate trophoblast cells, an invasive phenotype. Interaction at several intersection points between the pathways has been described in several cell systems so that the same would seem to be possible in trophoblast cells. In this review, some of the possible areas of interaction are alluded to.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Movement*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Trophoblasts / cytology*
  • Trophoblasts / metabolism*
  • ras Proteins / metabolism


  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • ras Proteins