Retinol and retinoic acid that are potent modulators of gene expression are vital for development and growth of the conceptus. Apart from being transported across the placenta, retinol and retinoic acid may also be active in the placenta per se. Three proteins involved in 1) serum transport of retinol (retinol binding protein [RBP]), 2) cellular transport and metabolism of retinol (cellular RBP [CRBP] I), and 3) retinoic acid (cellular retinoic acid binding protein [CRABP] I), respectively, have been located by immunohistochemistry during gestation in the porcine placenta. This is a diffuse epitheliochorial placenta composed of areolar-gland subunits, where transport of larger molecules takes place, and interareolar regions, where gas-exchange and trophoblast absorption of hemotroph occur. Immunoreactive-RBP (ir-RBP) as well as CRBP I (ir-CRBP) was detected in uterine glands and in areolar trophoblasts, suggesting that RBP-retinol is secreted by the glands and absorbed by the trophoblasts. Both proteins were present also at the interareolar regions, with ir-CRBP in both the uterine epithelium and the apposing trophoblasts, but ir-RBP only in the former. The localization of ir-CRABP was, in contrast, strictly limited to interareolar trophoblasts. Together these findings suggest that 1) the areolar gland subunits are important for transport of retinol and retinol-RBP, and 2) retinoid binding proteins are involved in the development and growth of the porcine placenta.
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