Expression patterns of ERVWE1/Syncytin-1 and other placentally expressed human endogenous retroviruses along the malignant transformation process of hydatidiform moles

Placenta. 2016 Mar;39:116-24. doi: 10.1016/j.placenta.2016.01.011. Epub 2016 Jan 14.


Introduction: Up to 20% of hydatidiform moles are followed by malignant transformation in gestational trophoblastic neoplasia and require chemotherapy. Syncytin-1 is involved in human placental morphogenesis and is also expressed in various cancers. We assessed the predictive value of the expression of Syncytin-1 and its interactants in the malignant transformation process of hydatidiform moles.

Methods: Syncytin-1 glycoprotein was localized by immunohistochemistry in hydatidiform moles, gestational trophoblastic neoplasia and control placentas. The transcription levels of its locus ERVWE1, its interaction partners (hASCT1, hASCT2, TLR4 and DC-SIGN) and two loci (ERVFRDE1 and ERV3) involved the expression of other placental envelopes were assessed by real-time PCR.

Results: Syncytin-1 glycoprotein was expressed in syncytiotrophoblast of hydatidiform moles with an apical enhancement when compared with normal placentas. Moles with further malignant transformation had a higher staining intensity of Syncytin-1 surface unit C-terminus but the transcription level of its locus ERVWE1 was not different from that of moles with further remission and normal placentas. hASCT1 and TLR4, showed lower transcription levels in complete moles when compared to normal placentas. ERVWE1, ERVFRDE1 and ERV3 transcription was down-regulated in hydatidiform moles and gestational trophoblastic neoplasia.

Conclusions: Variations of Syncytin-1 protein localization and down-regulation of hASCT1 and TLR4 transcription are likely to reflect altered functions of Syncytin-1 in the premalignant context of complete moles. The reduced transcription in gestational trophoblastic diseases of ERVWE1, ERVFRDE1 and ERV3, which expression during normal pregnancy is differentially regulated by promoter region methylation, suggest a joint dysregulation mechanism in malignant context.

Keywords: Choriocarcinoma; Gestational trophoblastic disease; Gestational trophoblastic neoplasia; Human endogenous retroviruses; Hydatidiform mole; Syncytin-1.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / genetics
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / metabolism*
  • DNA Methylation
  • Female
  • Gene Products, env / genetics
  • Gene Products, env / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hydatidiform Mole / genetics
  • Hydatidiform Mole / metabolism*
  • Hydatidiform Mole / pathology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Proteins / genetics
  • Pregnancy Proteins / metabolism*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Proviruses / genetics
  • Proviruses / metabolism*
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Trophoblasts / metabolism*
  • Trophoblasts / pathology
  • Uterine Neoplasms / genetics
  • Uterine Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Uterine Neoplasms / pathology


  • Gene Products, env
  • Pregnancy Proteins
  • syncytin
  • syncytin 2 protein, human