Placental Syncytium Forms a Biophysical Barrier against Pathogen Invasion. Fetal syncytiotrophoblasts form a unique fused multinuclear surface that is bathed in maternal blood, and constitutes the main interface between fetus and mother. Syncytiotrophoblasts are exposed to pathogens circulating in maternal blood, and appear to have unique resistance mechanisms against microbial invasion. These are due in part to the lack of intercellular junctions and their receptors, the Achilles heel of polarized mononuclear epithelia. However, the syncytium is immune to receptor-independent invasion as well, suggesting additional general defense mechanisms against infection. The difficulty of maintaining and manipulating primary human syncytiotrophoblasts in culture makes it challenging to investigate the cellular and molecular basis of host defenses in this unique tissue. Here we present a novel system to study placental pathogenesis using murine trophoblast stem cells (mTSC) that can be differentiated into syncytiotrophoblasts and recapitulate human placental syncytium.
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