The localization and distribution of corticotropin-releasing hormone in the human placenta and fetal membranes throughout gestation

Simon C Riley, John C Walton, JM Herlick, John R Challis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Using immunohistochemical techniques, we have determined the localization and distribution of CRH immunoreactivity (CRH-IR) in the human placenta, fetal membranes, decidua, and umbilical cord. Tissues were obtained at 6-8 weeks of pregnancy, at term, in association with premature birth, and from patients with pregnancy-induced hypertension or diabetes mellitus. A polyclonal antibody to the epithelial cell marker cytokeratin was used to identify trophoblast cells. CRH-IR was not detected in placenta or decidua at 6-8 weeks gestation. In tissues obtained after idiopathic premature delivery after 21 weeks gestation, positive CRH staining was found in placenta in syncytiotrophoblast and intermediate trophoblast, but not cytotrophoblast. CRH-IR was present in intermediate trophoblast cells that had invaded maternal blood vessels in decidua basalis. In the fetal membranes, CRH-IR was localized in the epithelium and subepithelial cells of amnion, in the trophoblast layer, in some cells of the reticular and cellular layers of chorion, and in some stromal cells and invasive trophoblast cells of decidua. CRH-IR was found in the amniotic epithelium of the umbilical cord and in the musculature of the umbilical vessels. This pattern of distribution of CRH-IR was found in tissues from 21 weeks gestation to term and postterm, and was similar in tissues examined from patients with pregnancy-induced hypertension and diabetes mellitus. These results show clearly that in placenta and membranes, CRH is localized primarily to syncytiotrophoblast and intermediate trophoblast, but not to cytotrophoblast cells. We suggest that the localization of CRH-IR is consistent with CRH affecting paracrine/autocrine interactions within the placenta, fetal membranes, and decidua that may be involved in the maturation of the fetal hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and in the stimulus and maintainance of labor.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1001-1007
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism
Volume72
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 1991

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