Genetic deficiency in granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (CSF2, GM-CSF) results in altered placental structure in mice. To investigate the mechanism of action of CSF2 in placental morphogenesis, the placental gene expression and cell composition were examined in Csf2 null mutant and wild-type mice. Microarray and quantitative RT-PCR analyses on Embryonic Day (E) 13 placentae revealed that the Csf2 null mutation caused altered expression of 17 genes not previously known to be associated with placental development, including Mid1, Cd24a, Tnfrsf11b, and Wdfy1. Genes controlling trophoblast differentiation (Ascl2, Tcfeb, Itgav, and Socs3) were also differentially expressed. The CSF2 ligand and the CSF2 receptor alpha subunit were predominantly synthesized in the placental junctional zone. Altered placental structure in Csf2 null mice at E15 was characterized by an expanded junctional zone and by increased Cx31 glycogen cells and cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor 1C (CDKN1C , P57Kip2 ) giant cells, accompanied by elevated junctional zone transcription of genes controlling spongiotrophoblast and giant cell differentiation and secretory function (Ascl2, Hand1, Prl3d1, and Prl2c2). Granzyme genes implicated in tissue remodeling and potentially in trophoblast invasion (Gzmc, Gzme, and Gzmf) were downregulated in the junctional zone of Csf2 null mutant placentae. These data demonstrate aberrant placental gene expression in Csf2 null mutant mice that is associated with altered differentiation and/or functional maturation of junctional zone trophoblast lineages, glycogen cells, and giant cells. We conclude that CSF2 is a regulator of trophoblast differentiation and placental development, which potentially influences the functional capacity of the placenta to support optimal fetal growth in pregnancy.
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