The status of the corticosteroid-binding globulin (CBG) at the fetomaternal interface, especially in the maternal intervillous blood space (I), was investigated and compared to that of CBG in the maternal (M) and fetal (umbilical arteries [A] and vein [V]) peripheral circulations at term. Immunoquantitation of plasma CBG showed that the CBG concentration in I was 30% less than that in M (P < 0.001) and threefold higher than that in umbilical cord blood (P < 0.001). The microheterogeneity of CBG studied by immunoaffinoelectrophoresis in the presence of concanavalin A and Western blotting indicated that the CBG in I was mainly of maternal origin and different from fetal CBG. A CBG mRNA, but no classic 50- to 59-kDa CBG, was found in isolated term trophoblastic cells. The steroid environment of the CBG in I differed greatly from that in the peripheral maternal and fetal circulations, because the progesterone:cortisol molar ratio in I was 75-fold higher than that in M and 7- to 10-fold higher than that in the fetal circulation. Binding studies revealed that the affinity constants of CBG for cortisol in I, A, and V were significantly lower than that in M plasma (P < 0.02) in their respective hormonal contexts. The binding parameters for I-CBG stripped of endogenous steroids and lipids were close to those for M-CBG but different from those of fetal CBG (P < 0.001). These data reflect the physiological relevance of the CBG-steroid interaction, especially with very CBG-loaded progesterone at the fetomaternal interface during late pregnancy.
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