A comprehensive analysis of the human placenta transcriptome

Placenta. 2014 Feb;35(2):125-31. doi: 10.1016/j.placenta.2013.11.007. Epub 2013 Dec 1.


As the conduit for nutrients and growth signals, the placenta is critical to establishing an environment sufficient for fetal growth and development. To better understand the mechanisms regulating placental development and gene expression, we characterized the transcriptome of term placenta from 20 healthy women with uncomplicated pregnancies using RNA-seq. To identify genes that were highly expressed and unique to the placenta we compared placental RNA-seq data to data from 7 other tissues (adipose, breast, hear, kidney, liver, lung, and smooth muscle) and identified several genes novel to placental biology (QSOX1, DLG5, and SEMA7A). Semi-quantitative RT-PCR confirmed the RNA-seq results and immunohistochemistry indicated these proteins were highly expressed in the placental syncytium. Additionally, we mined our RNA-seq data to map the relative expression of key developmental gene families (Fox, Sox, Gata, Tead, and Wnt) within the placenta. We identified FOXO4, GATA3, and WNT7A to be amongst the highest expressed members of these families. Overall, these findings provide a new reference for understanding of placental transcriptome and can aid in the identification of novel pathways regulating placenta physiology that may be dysregulated in placental disease.

Keywords: Development; Fetal tissue; Gene expression; Pregnancy; RNA-seq.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, CD / biosynthesis
  • Base Sequence
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Female
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • GATA3 Transcription Factor / biosynthesis
  • GPI-Linked Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Oxidoreductases Acting on Sulfur Group Donors / biosynthesis
  • Placenta / metabolism*
  • Pregnancy
  • Semaphorins / biosynthesis
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Transcription Factors / biosynthesis
  • Transcriptome*
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Wnt Proteins / biosynthesis


  • Antigens, CD
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • DLG5 protein, human
  • FOXO4 protein, human
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • GATA3 Transcription Factor
  • GATA3 protein, human
  • GPI-Linked Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • SEMA7A protein, human
  • Semaphorins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins
  • WNT7A protein, human
  • Wnt Proteins
  • Oxidoreductases Acting on Sulfur Group Donors
  • QSOX1 protein, human