Choriocarcinoma cells increase the number of differentiating human cytotrophoblasts through an in vitro interaction

A. Hochberg, C. Sibley, M. Pixley, Y. Sadovsky, B. Strauss, I. Boime

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28 Scopus citations


The human placenta arises from the zygote through single cell intermediates called cytotrophoblasts that in turn give rise to a syncytium. In culture, mononucleated cytotrophoblasts exhibit little, if any, cell division but are converted to multinucleated cells. Choriocarcinoma, the malignant tumor of placenta trophoblast, comprises a mixed population of dividing cellular intermediates that resemble cytotrophoblasts but are less differentiated. Because the choriocarcinoma intermediates arise from dividing cells, the tumor may contain one or more cell types in abundance not present in the population of isolated placental cells. To study placental differentiation through cell-cell interaction, choriocarcinoma cell lines were co-cultured with placenta-derived cytotrophoblasts, and placental hormone biosynthesis, as a marker of differentiation was examined. We reasoned that intermediates formed by the tumor might interact with and complement those intermediates in the placenta-derived cytotrophoblast population. Co-culturing either the JAr or JEG choriocarcinoma cell lines with cytotrophoblasts elevated the synthesis of the chorionic gonadotropin α and β subunits 10-20 fold, and human placental lactogen 5-fold. The effect was specific for these trophoblast-derived cells, since comparable quantities of Chinese hamster ovary or HeLa cells did not affect the placental cytotrophoblast culture. Further experiments suggested that the source of enhanced synthesis was the cytotrophoblasts. We propose that an interaction between cytotrophoblasts and choriocarcinoma cells occurs, which results in an increased number of differentiating cytotrophoblasts. Such co-cultures may represent a model system for examining choriocarcinoma cell interaction with normal cells, a process known to occur in vivo. The data are also consistent with the hypothesis that the regulated chorionic gonadotropin production in the placenta is determined by interaction among trophoblast cells at different stages of differentiation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8517-8522
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number13
StatePublished - 1991


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