E-cadherin in the assessment of aberrant placental cytotrophoblast turnover in pregnancies complicated by pre-eclampsia

Histochem Cell Biol. 2005 Dec;124(6):499-506. doi: 10.1007/s00418-005-0051-7. Epub 2005 Sep 2.


E-cadherin is a cell-cell adhesion protein expressed in cytotrophoblasts, which is lost as they differentiate and syncytialise. We have exploited E-cadherin as a marker of cytotrophoblasts to investigate villous tissue composition in first and third trimester placentae, both in normal pregnancy and pregnancies complicated by pre-eclampsia. We have achieved this by measuring expression levels of E-cadherin at the mRNA level, using Q-PCR, and at the protein level using semi-quantitative Western blotting. We have also combined E-cadherin immunohistochemistry with morphometric analysis of area measurements to define cytotrophoblast and syncytiotrophoblast compartments. This novel use of E-cadherin has revealed a decrease in the proportion of cytotrophoblasts in villous tissue as pregnancy progresses, in the absence of changes in syncytiotrophoblast cover. Moreover, in pre-eclampsia, placental E-cadherin was raised compared to syncytiotrophoblast, suggesting either exaggerated cytotrophoblast proliferation or impaired cytotrophoblast differentiation, both alterations of potential pathogenic importance.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cadherins / genetics
  • Cadherins / metabolism*
  • Chorionic Villi / pathology
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Placenta / metabolism
  • Placenta / pathology*
  • Pre-Eclampsia / etiology
  • Pre-Eclampsia / metabolism
  • Pre-Eclampsia / pathology*
  • Pregnancy Trimester, First
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Third
  • Pregnancy*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Trophoblasts / metabolism*
  • Trophoblasts / pathology


  • Cadherins
  • RNA, Messenger