Up-regulation of alpha5-integrin by E-cadherin loss in hypoxia and its key role in the migration of extravillous trophoblast cells during early implantation

Endocrinology. 2009 Sep;150(9):4306-15. doi: 10.1210/en.2008-1662. Epub 2009 Jun 4.


During early pregnancy, cytotrophoblast cells differentiate into extravillous trophoblast (EVT) cells and invade the uterine spiral arteries. This physiological process is essential for the development of maternal-fetal circulation. Because EVT cells are exposed to a low-oxygen environment during this process, we investigated the role of hypoxia in the mechanism that regulates the invasive behavior of EVT cells. Real-time PCR and immunofluorescent analysis were performed to investigate how hypoxia influences the expression of E-cadherin in villous explants cultures and in trophoblast-derived BeWo cells. We determined that hypoxia induced E-cadherin down-regulation through Snail up-regulation in villous explant cultures. The influence of E-cadherin loss was examined by analyzing the expression of alpha(5)-integrin and phosphorylated focal adhesion kinase (FAK) by Western blot and evaluating trophoblast invasion using a matrigel invasion assay. E-cadherin loss induced the up-regulation of alpha(5)-integrin, which leads to the tyrosine phosphorylation of FAK, resulting in an increase in the invasive activity of EVT cells. An alpha(5)-integrin neutralizing antibody inhibited the invasion of EVT cells by attenuating FAK tyrosine phosphorylation. Immunohistochemical analysis using clinical placental bed biopsies revealed that alpha(5)-integrin was up-regulated and FAK tyrosine phosphorylated (Try(861)) as EVT cells invade the uterine myometrium, whereas E-cadherin expression was down-regulated. These results suggest that alpha(5)-integrin up-regulation induced by E-cadherin loss under hypoxia has a crucial role in regulating the migration of EVT cells. This finding should help us reach a better understanding of the pathogenesis of critical gestational diseases, such as preeclampsia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cadherins / physiology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement / physiology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Embryo Implantation*
  • Female
  • Focal Adhesion Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / metabolism*
  • Integrin alpha5 / metabolism*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Pregnancy
  • Snail Family Transcription Factors
  • Transcription Factors / biosynthesis
  • Trophoblasts / metabolism*
  • Up-Regulation


  • Cadherins
  • Integrin alpha5
  • Snail Family Transcription Factors
  • Transcription Factors
  • Focal Adhesion Protein-Tyrosine Kinases