Localization and significance of urokinase plasminogen activator and its receptor in placental tissue from intrauterine, ectopic and molar pregnancies

C Floridon, O Nielsen, B Holund, L Sunde, J G Westergaard, S G Thomsen, B Teisner
Placenta 1999, 20 (8): 711-21
Urokinase plasminogen activator receptor (uPAR) is a membrane-anchored protein with urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA) as the ligand. This complex induces proteolysis and remodelling of maternal decidua during placental implantation. The presence of uPAR on trophoblasts is supposed to promote adhesion, migration and invasion. In cancer tissue, high levels of uPAR are correlated with a poor prognosis. This immunohistochemical study shows the localization of uPA and uPAR in a prospective design with stereological sampling of fetal and maternal tissue from normal, ectopic and hydatidiform molar (HM) pregnancies. Cytokeratin and Ki67 were used as markers for trophoblasts and proliferating cells. Membrane-bound uPAR was observed on villous non-proliferating intermediate trophoblasts (IT) within cell columns in intrauterine and ectopic pregnancies. The corresponding proliferating IT with cytological atypia sprouting from the chorionic villi in HM was uPAR-negative. uPA but not uPAR was observed in anchoring distal IT at the attachment-point to the basal plate. In the placental bed, extravillous interstitial trophoblasts were uPA-positive but uPAR-negative. The trophoblast giant cells were both uPA- and uPAR-negative. In relation to the maternal vessels, a focal distribution for uPA and uPAR was present in the endovascular and perivascular trophoblasts. The intraluminal trophoblasts overlying endothelial cells were uPAR-positive only. In maternal tissue from intrauterine and molar pregnancies, uPAR was seen in the decidual cells in a zone facing the anchoring villi and the fibrinoid lesions with embedded trophoblasts. In contrast, the stromal cells of the fallopian tube without a decidual reaction facing the implanted gestation were uPAR-negative. Non-invaded decidual, myometrial and muscular tissue of the pregnant uterus and fallopian tube was extensively positive for uPA whereas 'pseudodecidual' cells from the intrauterine evacuate in patients with an ectopic pregnancy only showed a focal and scanty reaction for uPA. When trophoblast invasion of the decidua was present, the decidual cells were uPA-negative. A semi-quantitative assessment of the receptor was estimated in villous IT within cell columns in normal and molar pregnancies but, in conclusion, quantitative evaluation of uPAR cannot be used to predict development of post-molar persistent trophoblastic disease (PTD).

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