Endocrine Pathology

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 19–33 | Cite as

Expression of inhibin/activin subunits alpha (-α), BetaA (-βA), and BetaB (-βB) in placental tissue of normal, preeclamptic, and HELLP pregnancies

  • I. Mylonas
  • B. Schiessl
  • U. Jeschke
  • J. Vogl
  • A. Makrigiannakis
  • C. Kuhn
  • S. Schulze
  • F. Kainer
  • K. Friese
Clinical Research


During human pregnancy the placenta produces a variety of proteins for the establishment of the fetoplacental unit, including inhibins and activins. Inhibins are dimeric glycoproteins, composed of an α-subunit and one of two possible β-subunits (βA or βB). Aims of the present study were (a) the determination of the frequency and tissue distribution patterns of the inhibin/activin subunits in human placental tissue of normal pregnancies and pregnancies complicated with preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome (hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, low platelets) and (b) the assessment of a combined expression of inhibin-α- and both β-subunits (βA- and βB-subunits) using double immunofluorescence technique. A significant lower expression of the inhibin-α subunit in preeclamptic and HELLP placental tissue compared to normal pregnancies was observed, while the inhibin-α immunostaining was significantly upregulated in syncytotrophoblast. Additionally, we demonstrated a significant down-regulation of inhibin-βB subunit in extravillous trophoblast cells between normal and preeclamptic compared to HELLP placental tissue, while inhibin-βA-subunit was significantly higher in preeclamptic syncytotrophoblast cells. A colocalization of inhibin-α and the beta-subunits could be demonstrated, suggesting a production and secretion of intact inhibin A and inhibin B. Therefore, inhibin A and activin A might be useful markers in preeclampsia. Valuable parameters in HELLP syndrome could be inhibin A, rather than inhibin B, and activin B. Furthermore, the lower βB-subunit production in extravillous trophoblast cells demonstrates that this subunit might have an important role in the pathogenesis of HELLP syndrome. Additionally, the higher production of the βA-subunit in syncytotrophoblast cells suggest a higher production of activin A rather than inhibin A in preeclampsia that might be utilized as a marker of placental function.

Key Words

Inhibin/activin subunits inhibin-α inhibin-βA inhibin-βB preeclampsia HELLP extravillous trophoblast syncytotrophoblast 


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Copyright information

© Humana Press Inc 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • I. Mylonas
    • 3
  • B. Schiessl
    • 3
    • 1
  • U. Jeschke
    • 3
  • J. Vogl
    • 3
  • A. Makrigiannakis
    • 2
  • C. Kuhn
    • 3
  • S. Schulze
    • 3
  • F. Kainer
    • 3
  • K. Friese
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Surgical and Reproductive Sciences (Obstetrics & Gynecology)University of Newcastle upon TyneNewcastle upon TyneUnited Kingdom
  2. 2.Department of Obstetrics and GynecologyUniversity of CreteHeraklion, CreteGreece
  3. 3.1st Department of Obstetrics and GynecologyLudwig-Maximilians-University MunichMunichGermany

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