Histochemistry and Cell Biology

, Volume 105, Issue 6, pp 415–429 | Cite as

Placental villous stroma as a model system for myofibroblast differentiation

  • Gaby Kohnen
  • Sonja Kertschanska
  • Ramazan Demir
  • Peter Kaufmann
Original Paper


Different subtypes of myofibroblasts have been described according to their cytoskeletal protein patterns. It is quite likely that these different subtypes represent distinct steps of differentiation. We propose the human placental stem villi as a particularly suitable model to study this differentiation process. During the course of pregnancy, different types of placental villi develop by differentiation of the mesenchymal stroma surrounding the fetal blood vessels. In order to characterise the differentiation of placental stromal cells in the human placenta, the expression patterns of the cytoskeletal proteins vimentin, desmin, α- and γ-smooth muscle actin, pan-actin, smooth muscle myosin, and the monoclonal antibody GB 42, a marker of myofibroblasts, were investigated on placental tissue of different gestational age (7th–40th week of gestation). Proliferation patterns were assessed with the proliferation markers MIB 1 and PCNA. Additionally, dipeptidyl peptidase IV distribution was studied in term placenta and the ultrastructure of placental stromal cells was assessed by electron microscopy. Different subpopulations of extravascular stromal cells were distinguished according to typical co-expression patterns of cytoskeletal proteins. Around the fetal stem vessels in term placental villi they were arranged as concentric layers with increasing stage of differentiation. A variable layer of extravascular stromal cells lying beneath the trophoblast expressed vimentin (V) or vimentin and desmin (VD). They were mitotically active. The next layer co-expressed vimentin, desmin, and α-smooth muscle actin (VDA). More centrally towards the fetal vessels, extravascular stromal cells co-expressed vimentin, desmin, α- and γ-smooth muscle actin, and GB 42 (VDAG). Cells close to the fetal vessels additionally co-expressed smooth muscle myosin (VDAGM). Ultrastructurally, V cells resembled typical mesenchymal cells. VD cells corresponded to fibroblasts, while VDA and VDAG cells developed features of myofibroblasts. Cells of the VDAGM-type revealed a smooth muscle cell-related ultrastructure. In earlier stages of pregnancy, stromal cell types with less complex expression patterns prevailed. The media smooth muscle cells of the fetal vessels showed a mixture of different co-expression patterns. These cells were separated from extravascular stromal cells by a layer of collagen fibres. The results obtained indicate a clearly defined spatial differentiation gradient with increasing cytoskeletal complexity in human placental stromal cells from the superficial trophoblast towards the blood vessels in the centre of the stem villi. The spatial distribution of the various stages of differentiation suggests that human placental villi could be a useful model for the study of the differentiation of myofibroblasts.


Cytoskeletal Protein Smooth Muscle Myosin Placental Villus Medium Smooth Muscle Cell Fetal Vessel 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gaby Kohnen
    • 1
  • Sonja Kertschanska
    • 1
  • Ramazan Demir
    • 2
  • Peter Kaufmann
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnatomyRWTH AachenAachenGermany
  2. 2.Department of Histology and EmbryologyAkdeniz UniversityAntalyaTurkey

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