The processes of implantation and placentation are both dependent on the invasion and remodeling of the uterine endometrium and vasculature by trophoblasts. Because the secretion and autocrine binding of urokinase (uPA) appears to be a common mechanism used by cells to facilitate plasmin- dependent tissue invasion, we measured the production of uPA and expression of uPA receptors by trophoblasts. Prourokinase bound specifically, reversibly, and with high affinity to cultured trophoblasts, via the uPA epidermal growth factor-like domain. Trophoblasts derived from two first- trimester placentae bound more prourokinase than cells isolated from term placentae. Furthermore, in vitro differentiation of cultured cytotrophoblasts into syncytiotrophoblasts was associated with diminished expression of urokinase receptors and a parallel decrease in the cellular content of uPA receptor mRNA. Trophoblasts also secreted prourokinase and plasminogen activator inhibitors types 1 and 2 (PAI-1 and PAI-2). Although prourokinase was secreted in amounts sufficient to endogenously saturate trophoblast uPA receptors, trophoblasts secreted greater amounts of PAI-1 and PAI-2 than uPA, and no net plasminogen activator activity was detected in trophoblast conditioned medium. In contrast, plasminogen added directly to cultured trophoblasts was readily converted to plasmin. Although the invasion and remodeling of uterine tissues by trophoblasts is a complex process dependent on several proteases of varying specificity, our findings suggest that the expression and modulation of urokinase receptors on the trophoblast cell surface may play an important role in this process.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology