Could the Human Endogenous Retrovirus-Derived Syncytialization Inhibitor, Suppressyn, Limit Heterotypic Cell Fusion Events in the Decidua?

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Proper placental development relies on tightly regulated trophoblast differentiation and interaction with maternal cells. Human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs) play an integral role in modulating cell fusion events in the trophoblast cells of the developing placenta. Syncytin-1 (ERVW-1) and its receptor, solute-linked carrier family A member 5 (SLC1A5/ASCT2), promote fusion of cytotrophoblast (CTB) cells to generate the multi-nucleated syncytiotrophoblast (STB) layer which is in direct contact with maternal blood. Another HERV-derived protein known as Suppressyn (ERVH48-1/SUPYN) is implicated in anti-fusogenic events as it shares the common receptor with ERVW-1. Here, we explore primary tissue and publicly available datasets to determine the distribution of ERVW-1, ERVH48-1 and SLC1A5 expression at the maternal-fetal interface. While SLC1A5 is broadly expressed in placental and decidual cell types, ERVW-1 and ERVH48-1 are confined to trophoblast cell types. ERVH48-1 displays higher expression levels in CTB and extravillous trophoblast, than in STB, while ERVW-1 is generally highest in STB. We have demonstrated through gene targeting studies that suppressyn has the ability to prevent ERVW-1-induced fusion events in co-culture models of trophoblast cell/maternal endometrial cell interactions. These findings suggest that differential HERV expression is vital to control fusion and anti-fusogenic events in the placenta and consequently, any imbalance or dysregulation in HERV expression may contribute to adverse pregnancy outcomes.





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Sugimoto, Jun, Sehee Choi, Megan A Sheridan, Iemasa Koh, Yoshiki Kudo and Danny J Schust (2021). Could the Human Endogenous Retrovirus-Derived Syncytialization Inhibitor, Suppressyn, Limit Heterotypic Cell Fusion Events in the Decidua?. International journal of molecular sciences, 22(19). p. 10259. 10.3390/ijms221910259 Retrieved from

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Danny J Schust

Edwin Crowell Hamblen Distinguished Professor of Reproductive Biology and Family Planning

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