The activity of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) specifies the ability of the trophoblast cell to degrade extracellular matrix (ECM) substrates. Usually the process of normal human placentation involves a coordinated interaction between the fetal-derived trophoblast cells and their microenvironment in the uterus. In this study, the effects of ECM proteins on the expression of MMP-2, -9, and -14 (membrane-type MMP-1); and the production of tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinase (TIMP) types -1, -2, and -3 have been investigated. Cytotrophoblast cells at 9 or 10 wk of gestation were cultured on various ECM coated dishes under serum-free conditions. Gelatin zymography analysis showed that cells grown on fibronectin (FN), laminin (LN), and vitronectin (VN) secreted more MMP-9 (about 1.5- to 3-fold more) than cells cultured on collagen I (Col I), whereas the secretion of MMP-9 by cells cultured on collagen IV (Col IV) was only half that by the cells on Col I. Northern Blot analysis gave the same results as zymography, indicating that expression of the MMP-9 gene in cytotrophoblast cells can be affected by matrix proteins. There was no significant difference in the expression of MMP-2 either at protein or mRNA levels among the cells cultured on the different matrix substrates. The expression of MMP-14 was regulated in a manner similar to that of MMP-2. Using ELISA, we detected higher levels of TIMP-1 in the culture medium of cells grown on VN, LN, and FN compared with that grown on Col I. But the expression of TIMP-3 mRNA was remarkably inhibited by VN, and ECM proteins had no effect on TIMP-1 and TIMP-2 mRNA expression. It was also observed that cultured cytotrophoblast cells expressed the corresponding receptors for the tested matrix proteins, such as integrins α1, α5, α6, β1, and β4. Furthermore, the adhesiveness of cytotrophoblast cells on Col I, Col IV, FN, and LN was increased by 62%, 45%, 21%, and 22%, respectively, when compared with adhesiveness on VN. Isolated cytotrophoblast cells remained stationary when cultured on dishes coated with Col I and Col IV, but they assumed a more motile morphology and aggregated into a network when cultured on LN and VN. These data indicate that human trophoblast cells interact with their microenvironment to control their behavior and function.
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