Molecular anatomy of the perivascular sheath in human placental stem villi: the contractile apparatus and its association to the extracellular matrix
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In previous studies, we have shown that smooth muscle cells and myofibroblast subpopulations of the perivascular stem villous sheath of the human placenta contain focal adhesion plaques and talin immunoreactivity. The close association of these cells to elastic and collagen fibres have led to the assumption of a functional myofibroelastic unit within the perivascular stem villous sheath. Interactions between the extracellular matrix and smooth muscle cells depend on a variety of structural protein assemblies. In the present study, we examined, by immunocytochemistry, whether the molecular assembly of extracellular matrix proteins and molecules of focal adhesions, known to be essential for signal transduction in smooth muscle cells, are also found in smooth muscle cells of the perivascular stem villous sheath of the human placenta. Vascular and extravascular smooth muscle cells were immunoreactive for α-actinin, vinculin, paxillin and tensin, the integrin chains α1 and β1, and the basement membrane components laminin and heparan/-chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan perlecan. pp125FAK did not react. In the extracellular matrix of blood vessel walls and the perivascular stem villous sheath, we found immunoreactivity of fibronectin and collagen types I, VI and undulin (collagen type XIV). From our data we conclude that within the perivascular stem villous sheath, there exists a system of signal transduction molecules, indicating a cross talk between the smooth muscle cells of this sheath and their surrounding extracellular matrix.
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