Dystroglycan Expression in Human Placenta: Basement Membrane Localization and Subunit Distribution Change Between the First and Third Trimester



This study describes the distribution of dystroglycan (DG) in human placenta, membranes, and uterine decidua.

Study design

Dystroglycan expression was characterized by Western blotting, immunohistochemistry, and immunofluorescence microscopy using human tissues and cultured cells.


Both α-DG and β-DG are expressed in the term syncytiotrophoblast, and α-DG is localized to the basement membrane. In first-trimester chorionic villi, α-DG and β-DG are localized to the periphery of the cytotrophoblast. Expression varies in term fetal membranes. α-Dystroglycan is not detectable in choriocarcinoma cells or HTR cells, but β-DG is present in both normal and cleaved forms.


Dystroglycan is expressed at high levels in human trophoblasts, and localization of the α- and β-subunits varies with gestational age and trophoblast differentiation. Because DG expression inversely correlates with invasiveness in many cancers, its pattern of expression in trophoblasts suggests a possible function in inhibition of placental invasion.

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Correspondence to Reagan M. Street MD.

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Street, R.M., Mucowski, S.J., Urrabaz-Garza, R. et al. Dystroglycan Expression in Human Placenta: Basement Membrane Localization and Subunit Distribution Change Between the First and Third Trimester. Reprod. Sci. 19, 282–289 (2012).

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  • dystroglycan
  • placenta
  • trophoblast