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Adequate blood flow through placental chorionic plate resistance arteries (CPAs) is necessary for oxygen and nutrient transfer to the fetus and a successful pregnancy. In non-placental vascular smooth muscle cells (SMCs), K(+) channels regulate contraction, vascular tone and blood flow. Previous studies showed that K(+) channel modulators alter CPA tone, but did not distinguish between effects on K(+) channels in endothelial cells and SMCs. In this study, we developed a preparation of freshly isolated CPASMCs of normal pregnancy and investigated K(+) channel expression and function. CPASMCs were isolated from normal human term placentas using enzymatic digestion. Purity and phenotype was confirmed with immunocytochemistry. Whole-cell patch clamp was used to assess K(+) channel currents, and mRNA and protein expression was determined in intact CPAs and isolated SMCs with RT-PCR and immunostaining. Isolated SMCs expressed α-actin but not CD31, a marker of endothelial cells. CPASMCs and intact CPAs expressed h-caldesmon and non-muscle myosin heavy chain-2; phenotypic markers of contractile and synthetic SMCs respectively. Whole-cell currents were inhibited by 4-AP, TEA, charybdotoxin and iberiotoxin implicating functional K(v) and BK(Ca) channels. 1-EBIO enhanced whole cell currents which were abolished by TRAM-34 and reduced by apamin indicating activation of IK(Ca) and SK(Ca) respectively. BK(Ca), IK(Ca) and SK(Ca)3 mRNA and/or protein were expressed in CPASMCs and intact CPAs. This study provides the first direct evidence for functional K(v), BK(Ca,) IK(Ca) and SK(Ca) channels in CPASMCs. These cells display a mixed phenotype implicating a dual role for CPASMCs in controlling both fetoplacental vascular resistance and vasculogenesis.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Actins, Calcium, Calmodulin-Binding Proteins, Chorion, Female, Fetus, Gene Expression, Humans, Membrane Potentials, Muscle, Smooth, Vascular, Myocytes, Smooth Muscle, Myosin Heavy Chains, Patch-Clamp Techniques, Placenta, Potassium, Potassium Channel Blockers, Potassium Channels, Calcium-Activated, Potassium Channels, Voltage-Gated, Pregnancy