, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 3–11 | Cite as

Hormones and human trophoblast differentiation

A review


In the human, fetal cytotrophoblastic cells play a key role in the implantation process and in placental development. With the progression of placentation, two pathways of differentiation lead to the formation of two distinct phenotypes. In the villous trophoblast (fusion phenotype), the trophblast differentiates from the fusion of mononuclear cytotrophoblastic cells into a syncytium, the syncytiotrophoblast. Bathing the maternal blood, the syncytiotrophoblast is involved in maternal-fetal exchanges and in placental endocrine functions. In the extravillous trophoblast (proliferative/invasive phenotype), the cytotrophoblastic cells proliferate and migrate into the decidua, remodeling the pregnant endometrium and its vasculature. This review summarizes our current knowledge of the key step of villous differentiation—the cell-cell fusion of the cytotrophoblastic cells—and on the invasion process of extravillous trophoblast. Experimental evidence demonstrates that the genetic differentiation/invasion programs of cytotrophoblastic cells could be modulated by their environment: oxygen, extracellular matrix, and soluble factors (cytokines, growth factors, and hormones). Cytotrophoblastic cells fusion and the functional differentiation of villous trophoblast are specifically stimulated by estradiol, glucocorticoids, and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) whereas progesterone is ineffective. Because these hormones are temporally secreted in large amounts and present at the fetomaternal interface, they are in good position to play a physiologic role in trophoblast differentiation. hCG may be important very early in pregnancy, when production of this glycoprotein is maximal, whereas estrogen increasingly produced by the fetoplacental unit and cortisol secreted from the fetal adrenal may be implicated in the end-stage maturation and aging of the trophoblast.

Key Words

Human placenta hormones trophoblast differentiation 


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© Humana Press Inc. 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.LBSC, CNRS UMR 6558Université de PoitiersPoitiers CedexFrance
  2. 2.Inserm U427Faculté de PharmacieParis Cedex 6France

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