Expression and function of the urokinase type plasminogen activator during mouse hemochorial placental development

T Teesalu, F Blasi, D Talarico
Developmental Dynamics 1998, 213 (1): 27-38
Mouse midlate placental development involves extensive tissue remodeling and cell invasion, processes which could be mediated by extracellular proteolytic enzymes. We have performed in situ expression analysis of urokinase type plasminogen activator (uPA), as well as functionally related molecules (uPA receptor, low density lipoprotein receptor-related protein, plasminogen activator inhibitor type-1) in day 10.5 to 18.5 post coitum (p.c.) murine placentas. In situ hybridization demonstrated the presence of uPA transcripts in the invasive trophoblast cells, in particular in glycogen-rich trophoblasts, a cell population that between embryonic days 12.5 and 15.5 infiltrates the maternal decidual tissue. In addition, we observed high uPA expression in the cells of uterine epithelium. Enzymatically active uPA was detected in both sites of uPA mRNA expression by in situ zymography. Expression and activity data suggest a role for this protease in the processes of cell invasion and uterine epithelial remodeling. Only low levels of uPA receptor (uPAR) transcripts were found in trophoblasts and decidual tissue at days 10.5 and 11.5 p.c. At the same stages, a prominent expression of plasminogen activator inhibitor type-1 (PAI-1) by spongiotrophoblasts and giant trophoblasts, as well as of LDL receptor-related protein (LRP) by spongiotrophoblasts and decidual cells could be detected, suggesting a role in regulating extracellular proteolysis in the area of fetomaternal interface. Analysis of uPA null placentas showed the presence of decidual extravascular fibrin deposits, which were not detected in wild type placentas. At the same time, the extent of infiltration of trophoblast cells in maternal decidual tissue, evaluated by anti-cytokeratin immunostaining, was similar in wild type and uPA null placentas. Our studies show that in murine hemochorial placentation, uPA has an essential role in the maintenance of the fibrinogenic/fibrinolytic balance in the decidua. The function of uPA in trophoblast invasion appears not to be indispensable, and its absence can be overcome by redundant or compensatory mechanisms.

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