Gene expression profiling of the human maternal-fetal interface reveals dramatic changes between midgestation and term

Endocrinology. 2007 Mar;148(3):1059-79. doi: 10.1210/en.2006-0683. Epub 2006 Dec 14.


Human placentation entails the remarkable integration of fetal and maternal cells into a single functional unit. In the basal plate region (the maternal-fetal interface) of the placenta, fetal cytotrophoblasts from the placenta invade the uterus and remodel the resident vasculature and avoid maternal immune rejection. Knowing the molecular bases for these unique cell-cell interactions is important for understanding how this specialized region functions during normal pregnancy with implications for tumor biology and transplantation immunology. Therefore, we undertook a global analysis of the gene expression profiles at the maternal-fetal interface. Basal plate biopsy specimens were obtained from 36 placentas (14-40 wk) at the conclusion of normal pregnancies. RNA was isolated, processed, and hybridized to HG-U133A&B Affymetrix GeneChips. Surprisingly, there was little change in gene expression during the 14- to 24-wk interval. In contrast, 418 genes were differentially expressed at term (37-40 wk) as compared with midgestation (14-24 wk). Subsequent analyses using quantitative PCR and immunolocalization approaches validated a portion of these results. Many of the differentially expressed genes are known in other contexts to be involved in differentiation, motility, transcription, immunity, angiogenesis, extracellular matrix dissolution, or lipid metabolism. One sixth were nonannotated or encoded hypothetical proteins. Modeling based on structural homology revealed potential functions for 31 of these proteins. These data provide a reference set for understanding the molecular components of the dialogue taking place between maternal and fetal cells in the basal plate as well as for future comparisons of alterations in this region that occur in obstetric complications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • Gestational Age*
  • Humans
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange*
  • Models, Biological
  • Placenta / metabolism*
  • Pregnancy / metabolism*
  • Term Birth / metabolism*