The regulation of steroid production by the placenta and fetal membranes is important for both the maintenance of pregnancy and the timing of parturition. 3 beta-Hydroxy-5-ene-steroid dehydrogenase/delta 5----delta 4-isomerase (3 beta HSD) catalyzes an obligatory step in the biosynthesis of steroid hormones. We have determined the localization of 3 beta HSD in the human placenta, fetal membranes, and umbilical cord throughout gestation by immunohistochemical analysis, using a polyclonal antibody raised in rabbits against a purified preparation of human placental 3 beta HSD. In placenta, immunoreactive (IR-) 3 beta HSD was localized in the syncytiotrophoblast and intermediate trophoblast cells at both villous and extravillous sites, but not in cytotrophoblast cells from 6 weeks gestation to term. At 6-7 weeks gestation, IR-3 beta HSD was distributed in the cytoplasm of syncytiotrophoblast in about half of placental villi. By 12-14 weeks, the syncytiotrophoblast of all placental villi stained positively for 3 beta HSD. In the fetal membranes, strong IR-3 beta HSD staining was found in the trophoblast and reticular layers of chorion and in invasive trophoblast cells in decidua, and weakly in decidual stromal cells and amniotic epithelium. No IR-3 beta HSD was found in amnion on the placental plate, but in the umbilical cord, IR-3 beta HSD was present in the amniotic epithelium and also in fibroblast cells in Warton's jelly. These observations demonstrate that the localization of 3 beta HSD immunoreactivity and, therefore, the presumed sites of delta 5- to delta 4-steroid interconversion throughout gestation are principally the syncytiotrophoblast and intermediate trophoblast cells in placenta and the trophoblast cells in chorion and decidua in fetal membranes.
|Number of pages||6|
|Journal||Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism|
|Publication status||Published - Sep 1992|