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Title: Examining the possibility of an endothelial-mesenchymal transition in placenta
Author: Swietlik, Stefanie
ISNI:       0000 0004 5372 5371
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2016
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During normal placental development, a primitive vascular network develops through vasculogenesis and angiogenesis, and is then remodelled through maturation and regression. The mechanism behind this regression is unknown, but data from other systems suggests that it could be due to an endothelial-mesenchymal transition (EndMT). If this is the case, then dysregulated EndMT could lead to increased vascular regression, which could result in placental hypovascularisation. As the placental vasculature is the area of exchange between maternal and fetal circulations, a reduction in its surface area could result in fetal growth restriction (FGR). The hypothesis of this thesis is that EndMT occurs during normal placental development, but is increased during FGR and contributes to placental hypovascularisation. A primary cell model consisting of endothelial and mesenchymal cells was isolated from human first trimester placental villous stroma. These cells were shown to lose CD31 mRNA (n = 1-3) and protein (n = 15) over 4 passages, with no loss of cell viability (n = 8). EndMT-associated transcription factors were also present in these cells at all 4 passages (n = 2-4). When cells were isolated from this mixed cell model based on their CD31-positivity and examined immediately after isolation, a small proportion also expressed αSMA (n = 5). Co-expression of endothelial and mesenchymal markers suggests that an EndMT was occurring. After 24 hours in culture, the proportion of these cells expressing αSMA increased (n = 5), and some cells co-expressed vWF and αSMA, while others lost their CD31-positivity, indicating that these cells had undergone EndMT. Cells isolated based on their CD31-positivity were treated with factors shown to inhibit EndMT in other systems. However, culture with 10µM SB431542 (TGFβ receptor inhibitor; n = 6), 10µM Dorsomorphin (BMP receptor inhibitor; n = 3), or 0.1µM PDGFR-β Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor IV (n = 3) did not inhibit gain of αSMA by these cells. Culture on Matrigel in endothelial growth medium containing VEGF and FGF also failed to stabilise the endothelial phenotype (n = 3). The possibility that EndMT occurs in placenta in vivo was examined; genes associated with EndMT were shown to be present in placenta (n = 5), and there was limited evidence of CD31 or vWF co-expression with αSMA in tissue. Preliminary evidence was obtained to suggest that expression of EndMT-associated genes was altered in FGR placentas compared to normal. In summary, the data presented in this thesis demonstrate that an EndMT occurs in primary placental microvascular endothelial cells in vitro. Furthermore, these studies provide evidence to suggest that this transition also occurs in vivo and could be altered in placentas from pregnancies complicated by FGR.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council ; Tommy's, the baby charity
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Placenta ; Endothelial-mesenchymal transition ; Vascular development ; Fetal growth restriction