Maternal uteroplacental blood flow increases during pregnancy. Altered uteroplacental blood flow is a core predictor of abnormal pregnancy. Normally, the uteroplacental arteries are invaded by endovascular trophoblast and remodeled into dilated, inelastic tubes without maternal vasomotor control. Disturbed remodeling is associated with maintenance of high uteroplacental vascular resistance and intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) and preeclampsia. Herein, we review routes, mechanisms, and control of endovascular trophoblast invasion. The reviewed data suggest that endovascular trophoblast invasion involves a side route of interstitial invasion. Failure of vascular invasion is preceded by impaired interstitial trophoblast invasion. Extravillous trophoblast synthesis of nitric oxide is discussed in relation to arterial dilation that paves the way for endovascular trophoblast. Moreover, molecular mimicry of invading trophoblast-expressing endothelial adhesion molecules is discussed in relation to replacement of endothelium by trophoblast. Also, maternal uterine endothelial cells actively prepare endovascular invasion by expression of selectins that enable trophoblast to adhere to maternal endothelium. Finally, the mother can prevent endovascular invasion by activated macrophage-induced apoptosis of trophoblast. These data are partially controversial because of methodological restrictions associated with limitations of human tissue investigations and animal studies. Animal models require special care when extrapolating data to the human due to extreme species variations regarding trophoblast invasion. Basal plates of delivered placentas or curettage specimens have been used to describe failure of trophoblast invasion associated with IUGR and preeclampsia; however, they are unsuitable for these kinds of studies, since they do not include the area of pathogenic events, i.e., the placental bed.
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