During the first trimester of pregnancy, appropriate regulation of estradiol (E2) is essential for normal placental development. Previous studies demonstrate that premature elevation in E2 concentrations can lead to abnormal placentation, but have not fully elaborated the mechanism of this effect in the first-trimester trophoblast. Our aim was to determine whether E2 elicits trophoblast cell death or inhibits proliferation. The first-trimester human cytotrophoblast cell line HTR-8/SVneo was cultured in phenol red-free medium containing charcoal-stripped serum and treated with 17beta-E2 at concentrations between 0 and 100 nM. TUNEL and invasion assays indicated that E2 significantly increased cell death and reduced cell invasion at 10 nM, and nuclear Ki67 expression revealed that it decreased cell proliferation at 1 nM. A similar effect on cell death was observed in first-trimester placental explants. The E2 antagonist fulvestrant blocked all effects of E2. Immunohistochemistry showed that protein expression of proapoptotic caspases 3, 8, and 9 increased at E2 concentrations of 25 nM and greater, whereas expression of antiapoptotic BCL2-alpha decreased at E2 concentrations of 10 nM and greater. Additionally, treatments with estrogen receptor (ER) alpha-specific and ERbeta-specific agonists at concentrations between 0 and 1000 nM indicated that only ERalpha mediates E2's effects, although immunohistochemistry and Western immunoblotting showed that HTR-8/SVneo cells and placental explants express both ERalpha and ERbeta. Taken together, these findings reveal the interplay between elevated serum E2 and apoptosis in the first trimester of pregnancy. These factors could be associated with pregnancy complications including infertility and uteroplacental insufficiency.
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Vol. 93 • No. 3