A successful pregnancy depends on the intricate and timely interactions of maternal and fetal cells. Placental extravillous cytotrophoblast invasion involves a cellular transition from an epithelial to mesenchymal phenotype. Villous cytotrophoblasts undergo a partial epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) when differentiating into extravillous cytotrophoblasts and gain the capacity to migrate and invade. This review summarizes our current knowledge regarding known regulators of EMT in the human placenta, including the inducers of EMT, upstream transcription factors that control EMT and the downstream effectors, cell adhesion molecules and their differential expression and functions in pregnancy pathologies, preeclampsia (PE) and fetal growth restriction (FGR). The review also describes the research strategies that were used for the identification of the functional role of EMT targets in vitro. A better understanding of molecular pathways driven by placental EMT and further elucidation of signaling pathways underlying the developmental programs may offer novel strategies of targeted therapy for improving feto-placental growth in placental pathologies including PE and FGR.
- epithelial-mesenchymal transition