Hemochorial placentation involves highly regulated interactions between fetal- and maternal-derived cells. HtrA3, a novel serine protease containing an insulin-like growth factor (IGF) binding domain, was previously shown to increase during early pregnancy in the mouse uterus, being dramatically upregulated post-implantation. The present study examined the regulation of HtrA3 gene in the mouse uterus from post-implantation to late gestation. Both mRNA and protein of HtrA3 were localized specifically in the maternal decidua. In contrast, HtrA3 expression was below detection in trophoblasts, including the giant cells that are in direct contact with the decidua. This pattern persisted from the early stages of placentation to near term. The level of decidual HtrA3 mRNA and its protein gradually decreased as the placenta matured. In the decidua, only the maternal decidual cells, but not blood vessels or uterine NK cells that are present in large numbers, were positive for HtrA3. The specific localization of a protease possessing an IGF-binding domain at the maternal-fetal interface suggests that HtrA3 plays a critical role in mediating maternal decidual remodelling and maintenance, likely in association with the IGF system, in placental development and function.
- Serine protease