Severe pre-eclampsia is associated with alterations in cytotrophoblasts of the smooth chorion

Development. 2017 Mar 1;144(5):767-777. doi: 10.1242/dev.146100.


Pre-eclampsia (PE), which affects ∼8% of first pregnancies, is associated with faulty placentation. Extravillous cytotrophoblasts (CTBs) fail to differentiate properly, contributing to shallow uterine invasion and deficient spiral artery remodeling. We studied the effects of severe PE (sPE) on the smooth chorion portion of the fetal membranes. The results showed a significant expansion of the CTB layer. The cells displayed enhanced expression of stage-specific antigens that extravillous CTBs normally upregulate as they exit the placenta. Transcriptomics revealed the dysregulated expression of many genes (e.g. placental proteins, markers of oxidative stress). We confirmed an sPE-related increase in production of PAPPA1, which releases IGF1 from its binding protein. IGF1 enhanced proliferation of smooth chorion CTBs, a possible explanation for expansion of this layer, which may partially compensate for the placental deficits.

Keywords: Chorion; Cytotrophoblast; Human; PAPPA1; Pre-eclampsia; Preterm birth.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Chorion / cytology
  • Chorion / metabolism*
  • Extraembryonic Membranes / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Humans
  • Keratins / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Placenta / cytology
  • Placenta / metabolism*
  • Placentation*
  • Pre-Eclampsia / metabolism*
  • Pre-Eclampsia / pathology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy-Associated Plasma Protein-A / metabolism
  • Protein Binding
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Transcriptome
  • Trophoblasts / cytology
  • Trophoblasts / metabolism*


  • Keratins
  • Pregnancy-Associated Plasma Protein-A
  • PAPPA1 protein, human