Maternal smoking is associated with severe perinatal complications and significant placental pathologies with underlying ultrastructural changes. In this study, we examined the influence of maternal smoking on trophoblast apoptosis throughout development and correlated those findings with changes in expression of X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis protein (Xiap) as well as Fas and Fas ligand (FasL). Trophoblast apoptosis was determined by DNA fragmentation and TUNEL. Protein expression was assessed by Western blotting and immunohistochemistry. Maternal smoking was associated with increased trophoblast apoptosis in the first trimester but decreased trophoblast apoptosis near term. Placental Xiap levels decreased significantly throughout development in nonsmokers (P < 0.05) but remained elevated in smokers. Fas and FasL levels did not vary significantly throughout development nor between groups. However, procaspase-3 levels were significantly increased in smokers at term. Our results suggest that maternal smoking has different effects at different stages of trophoblast differentiation and that this is regulated in part through modulations in placental Xiap expression.
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