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TJ Peters, BM Chapman, MW Wolfe and MJ Soares

Trophoblast giant cells are one of the primary endocrine cell types of the rodent placenta. Placental lactogen-I (PL-I) is the initial prolactin (PRL) family member expressed as trophoblast giant cells differentiate. In this report, we use the Rcho-1 trophoblast cell line as a model for studying the regulation of PL-I gene expression during trophoblast giant cell differentiation. Evidence is provided for trophoblast cell expression of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), ErbB2, fibroblast growth factor receptor 1 (FGFR1), transforming growth factor-alpha, and heparin-binding EGF. EGF and FGF-2 stimulated PL-I mRNA and protein accumulation and PL-I promoter activity in a concentration-dependent manner. These latter growth factor actions on PL-I promoter activities were specifically inhibited by cotransfection with dominant negative constructs for EGFR and FGFRs respectively. Utilization of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway by EGF and FGF-2 in trophoblast cells was demonstrated by growth factor stimulation of a Gal4 DNA binding/Elk1 transactivational domain fusion construct, and more specifically by activation of extracellular signal regulated kinase and p38 MAPK. PL-I gene activation was also sensitive to disruption of MAPK and activation protein-1 (AP-1) signaling pathways. In conclusion, autocrine/paracrine pathways involving EGFR and FGFR1, MAPK and AP-1 are shown to participate in the regulation of the PL-I gene in differentiating trophoblast cells.

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DO Wiemers, R Ain, S Ohboshi and MJ Soares

Rodents possess an expanded prolactin (PRL) family of genes. These genes encode for a family of structurally related hormones/cytokines that are expressed most prominently in the anterior pituitary, uterus and placenta. In this study, we have identified a new member of the rat PRL family through a search of the National Center for Biotechnology Information expressed sequence database. The cDNA was sequenced and its corresponding mRNA characterized. On the basis of existing nomenclature, the rat cDNA was termed PRL-like protein-N (PLP-N). PLP-N has structural features indicative of its inclusion in the PRL family and is most closely related to PRL-like protein-F (PLP-F) and proliferin related protein (PLF-RP). A survey of PLP-N mRNA expression by Northern analysis indicated that PLP-N showed extensive expression in the metrial gland and minimal expression in the chorioallantoic placenta or other tIssues. Expression of PLP-N mRNA was restricted to migratory trophoblast cells. Junctional zone trophoblast cells isolated from day 13 of gestation placenta differentiated in vitro and exhibited a capacity for PLP-N expression. In summary, we have discovered a new member of the PRL family that is prominently expressed in migratory trophoblast cells residing in the metrial gland.

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G Dai, D Wang, B Liu, JW Kasik, H Muller, RA White, GS Hummel and MJ Soares

The prolactin (PRL) family consists of a collection of genes expressed in the uterus, placenta and anterior pituitary. These cytokines/hormones participate in the control of maternal-fetal adaptations to pregnancy. In this report, we establish the presence of three new members of the PRL family. Novel expressed sequence tags (ESTs) with homology to PRL were isolated from embryonic and placental cDNA libraries. The cDNAs were sequenced and compared with those of other members of the PRL family. The three new cDNAs were assigned to the PRL family on the basis of sequence similarities and were referred to as PRL-like protein-J (PLP-J), PRL-like protein-K (PLP-K) and PRL-like protein-M (PLP-M). Both rat and mouse PLP-J cDNAs were identified. Rat PLP-J cDNA encodes for a predicted 211 amino acid protein containing a 29 amino acid signal peptide and two putative N-linked glycosylation sites, whereas the mouse PLP-J cDNA encodes for a 212 amino acid protein containing a 29 amino acid signal peptide with a single N-linked glycosylation site. Rat and mouse PLP-J proteins share approximately 79% and 70% nucleotide and amino acid sequence identity, respectively. A full-length rat PLP-K cDNA and a partial tentative mouse PLP-K cDNA were identified. The rat PLP-K cDNA encodes for a predicted 228 amino acid protein containing a 31 amino acid signal peptide and one putative N-linked glycosylation site; the mouse PLP-M cDNA encodes for a predicted 228 amino acid protein containing a 28 amino acid signal peptide and one putative N-linked glycosylation site. Genes for PLP-J, PLP-K and PLP-M are situated at the Prl family locus on mouse chromosome 13. PLP-J was exclusively expressed in decidual tissue from both the mouse and rat. PLP-K was expressed in trophoblast cells of the chorioallantoic placenta and showed an apparent species difference. In the mouse, virtually all trophoblast lineages expressed PLP-K, whereas in the rat, PLP-K expression was restricted to the labyrinthine trophoblast cells. Mouse PLP-M expression was restricted to the junctional zone of the chorioallantoic placenta. In summary, we have identified three new members of the rodent PRL gene family that are expressed in uterine and placental structures. Future experimentation is needed to determine the specific roles of each of these ligands in the biology of pregnancy.

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D Wang, R Ishimura, DS Walia, H Muller, G Dai, JS Hunt, NA Lee, JJ Lee and MJ Soares

The uterus and placenta of the mouse and rat produce a member of the prolactin (PRL) family referred to as decidual/trophoblast PRL-related protein (d/tPRP). This cytokine/hormone has been hypothesized to regulate decidual cell activities needed for the establishment and maintenance of gestation. An alkaline phosphatase (AP)-tagging strategy was used to identify d/tPRP target cells. AP-d/tPRP bound to virtually all cells and tissues to which it was exposed, consistent with our earlier evidence that d/tPRP binds to heparin-containing molecules. Moreover, we found that co-incubation with heparin or pretreatment with heparitinase greatly decreased the binding of AP-d/tPRP to tissue sections. In addition, we observed that the AP-d/tPRP probe bound to the surface of Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells but not to heparan sulfate-deficient CHO-pgsD-677 cells. Potential unique non-heparin d/tPRP binding sites within mouse and rat uteroplacental tissues were identified by consecutively incubating sections with AP-d/tPRP followed by heparin. This strategy led to the identification of d/tPRP target cells associated with the uterus and the labyrinth zone of the chorioallantoic placenta. Within the uterus, d/tPRP specifically bound to eosinophils. d/tPRP-binding and eosinophil peroxidase activity were co-localized and showed similar patterns of distribution during the estrous cycle, pregnancy, and following hormonal manipulation. d/tPRP interactions with eosinophils were further demonstrated in the lung and intestine, with eosinophils isolated from the peritoneum, and in mice with generalized tissue eosinophilia. Collectively, these findings suggest that intercellular d/tPRP targeting is mediated through associations with heparin-containing molecules which help direct d/tPRP to specific interactions with eosinophils within the uterus and with the labyrinthine compartment of the chorioallantoic placenta.