Analogous and unique functions of connexins in mouse and human placental development

M Kibschull, A Gellhaus, E Winterhager
Placenta 2008, 29 (10): 848-54
Here, we review the expression, localization and the possible role of the different connexin isoforms in placental function and development in mice and men. Connexin gene deletion in mice has shown that Cx26 is responsible for transplacental uptake of glucose in the labyrinth, and Cx31 as well as Cx31.1 for trophoblast cell lineage development. In the human placenta, it appears that Cx43 is required for the fusion process of cytotrophoblastic cells leading to the formation of the syncytiotrophoblast. Thus Cx26 and Cx43 serve different species-specific functions in the functionally analogous placental compartments, mouse labyrinth and human villous trophoblast. However, like Cx31 in the mouse, Cx40 plays a critical role in the switch from a proliferative to an invasive phenotype of the trophoblast cells invading the endometrium. Both connexin channels seem to have similar functions in analogous compartments of the placentas. Taken together, connexins are important in regulating trophoblast cell differentiation in both species. In mouse, connexin channels are specifically involved in passive transport of molecules across the placental barriers.

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