Background: Controlled trophoblast invasion into the maternal decidua (interstitial invasion) is important for placental development. Factors secreted by the maternal decidual cells and the extravillous trophoblast can influence trophoblast invasion and abnormalities in the invasion process may lead to pregnancy complications. Serine protease HtrA3 is highly expressed in the decidual cells in the late secretory phase of the menstrual cycle and throughout pregnancy, and in most trophoblast cell types, apart from the invading interstitial trophoblast during the first trimester. HtrA3 and its family members are down-regulated in a number of cancers and are proposed as tumour suppressors. The current study aimed to investigate whether HtrA3 is secreted by decidual cells, and whether inhibiting such secretion alters trophoblast invasion.
Methods and Results: Human endometrial stromal cells (HESCs) were decidualized with estradiol, medroxyprogesterone acetate and cyclic adenosine monophosphate. Real-time RTPCR, western blotting and immunocytochemistry confirmed that HtrA3 mRNA and protein expression increased during decidualization. HtrA3 was also detected in the conditioned media (CM) of the decidualized HESCs, confirming its secretion. For functional studies, a protease-inactive mutant form of HtrA3 which was previously confirmed to be a dominant-negative inhibitor was produced using wheat germ cell-free technology. CM from decidualized HESCs significantly suppressed invasion of trophoblast HTR-8 cells (P <0.01), whereas inhibition of HtrA3 in this CM by exogenous HtrA3 mutant resulted in increased trophoblast HTR-8 cell invasion (P <0.001).
Conclusions: These results strongly support the hypothesis that decidual HtrA3 negatively regulates trophoblast invasion.