The ontogeny of 25-hydroxyvitamin D(3) 1α-hydroxylase expression in human placenta and decidua

Daniel Zehnder, Katie Evans, Mark Kilby, JN Bulmer, BA Innes, Paul Stewart, Martin Hewison

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182 Citations (Scopus)


In addition to its classical calciotropic effects, the active form of vitamin D, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D(3) (1,25(OH)(2)D(3)) is a potent anti-proliferative/immunomodulatory secosteroid. The enzyme that catalyzes the synthesis of 1,25(OH)(2)D(3), 1alpha-hydroxylase (1alpha-OHase), is expressed in many human tissues, highlighting its possible role as an autocrine/paracrine activator of vitamin D. Immunohistochemical and RNA analyses were used to characterize the ontogeny of 1alpha-OHase expression in human placenta and decidua. Protein for 1alpha-OHase was detectable in trophoblast and decidua; the latter being stronger in decidualized stromal cells than macrophages, with no staining of lymphocytes. Quantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction was used to assess changes in mRNA expression for 1alpha-OHase at different gestations: first (mean, 9.1 +/- 1.5 weeks); second (mean, 14 +/- 1.8 weeks), and third trimester (mean, 39.3 +/- 2.5 weeks). 1alpha-OHase expression in decidua was approximately 1000-fold higher in first (95% confidence limits, 611 to 1376) and second (95% confidence limits, 633 to 1623) trimester biopsies when compared with the third trimester (95% confidence limits, 0.36 to 2.81) (both P <0.001). In placenta, 1alpha-OHase expression was 80-fold higher in the first (range, 42 to 137) and second (range, 30 to 199) trimester when compared with third trimester biopsies (0.6 to 1.6) (both P <0.001). Similar results were obtained by semiquantitative IHC. Parallel analysis of the receptor for 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) (vitamin D receptor) indicated that, as with 1alpha-OHase, highest levels of expression occurred in first trimester decidua. However, changes in vitamin D receptor mRNA expression across gestation were less pronounced than 1alpha-OHase. These spatiotemporal data emphasize the potential importance of 1alpha-OHase during early fetoplacental life and, in particular, suggest an autocrine/paracrine immunomodulatory function for the enzyme.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-114
Number of pages10
JournalThe American Journal of Pathology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2002


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