Molecular Regulation of Placental Development

  • James C. Cross


Dysfunction of the placenta is generally accepted as a potential underlying cause of IUGR. Primary pathologies of the normal placenta, such as infection or infarc-tion, can certainly restrict its ability to deliver nutrients to the fetus. In addition, though, deficiencies in the development of the placenta could also occur to restrict its function. This idea is supported by the findings of cellular and structural changes in the placenta that are associated with IUGR [1–3], many of which are suggestive of a relatively immature organ. Similar placentation changes have also been described in pre-eclampsia (PE), a fact that suggests the pathogenesis of the two syndromes may be related [4]. Because these changes may reflect a failure in development that occurred weeks or even months before an effect on fetal growth was manifest, an opportunity for early diagnosis and therapy thus exists. A challenge for the future will be to understand the molecular basis of these developmental changes. The last few years have seen an explosion of new information concerning the regulation of placental development resulting from a combination of cell biological studies in humans and molecular genetic studies in mice. This chapter will highlight work that is beginning to describe molecular mechanisms essential for normal placental development, which may help to explain the placental origins of IUGR.


Hepatocyte Growth Factor Human Placenta Trophoblast Cell Intrauterine Growth Restriction Placental Development 
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  • James C. Cross

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