CD74-Downregulation of Placental Macrophage-Trophoblastic Interactions in Preeclampsia

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We hypothesized that cluster of differentiation 74 (CD74) downregulation on placental macrophages, leading to altered macrophage-trophoblast interaction, is involved in preeclampsia.


Preeclamptic pregnancies feature hypertension, proteinuria, and placental anomalies. Feto-placental macrophages regulate villous trophoblast differentiation during placental development. Disturbance of this well-balanced regulation can lead to pathological pregnancies.

Methods and Results:

We performed whole-genome expression analysis of placental tissue. CD74 was one of the most downregulated genes in placentas from preeclamptic women. By reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction, we confirmed this finding in early-onset (<34 gestational week, n=26) and late-onset (≥34 gestational week, n=24) samples from preeclamptic women, compared with healthy pregnant controls (n=28). CD74 protein levels were analyzed by Western blot and flow cytometry. We identified placental macrophages to express CD74 by immunofluorescence, flow cytometry, and RT-PCR. CD74-positive macrophages were significantly reduced in preeclamptic placentas compared with controls. CD74-silenced macrophages showed that the adhesion molecules ALCAM, ICAM4, and Syndecan-2, as well as macrophage adhesion to trophoblasts were diminished. Naive and activated macrophages lacking CD74 showed a shift toward a proinflammatory signature with an increased secretion of tumor necrosis factor-α, chemokine (C–C motif) ligand 5, and monocyte chemotactic protein-1, when cocultured with trophoblasts compared with control macrophages. Trophoblasts stimulated by these factors express more CYP2J2, sFlt1, TNFα, and IL-8. CD74-knockout mice showed disturbed placental morphology, reduced junctional zone, smaller placentas, and impaired spiral artery remodeling with fetal growth restriction.


CD74 downregulation in placental macrophages is present in preeclampsia. CD74 downregulation leads to altered macrophage activation toward a proinflammatory signature and a disturbed crosstalk with trophoblasts.

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