Endocrine - Placenta Development

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Pregnancy Test

For complete notes on placenta development and function see Placenta Development.

Endocrine Links: Introduction | BGD Lecture | Science Lecture | Lecture Movie | pineal | hypothalamus‎ | pituitary Pituitary | thyroid Thyroid | Parathyroid | thymus Thymus‎ | pancreas‎ | adrenal Adrenal‎ | gonad‎ | placenta‎ | Other Tissues | Stage 22 | Abnormalities | Hormones | Category:Endocrine
Historic Embryology - Endocrine  
1903 Islets of Langerhans | 1904 interstitial Cells | 1908 Pancreas Different Species | 1908 Pituitary | 1908 Pituitary histology | 1911 Rathke's pouch | 1912 Suprarenal Bodies | 1914 Suprarenal Organs | 1915 Pharynx | 1916 Thyroid | 1918 Rabbit Hypophysis | 1920 Adrenal | 1935 Mammalian Hypophysis | 1926 Human Hypophysis | 1927 Hypophyseal fossa | 1935 Hypophysis | 1937 Pineal | 1938 Parathyroid | 1940 Adrenal | 1941 Thyroid | 1950 Thyroid Parathyroid Thymus | 1957 Adrenal
Lecture - Placenta Development
Placenta Links: Introduction | Lecture - Placenta | Lecture Movie | Practical - Placenta | Implantation | Villi Development | Trophoblast | Maternal Decidua | Endocrine | Cord | Membranes | Abnormalities | Stage 13 | Stage 22 | Histology | Vascular Beds | Blood Vessel Development | Stem Cells | 2013 Meeting Presentation | Placenta Terms | Category:Placenta
Historic Embryology - Placenta 
1883 Embryonic Membranes | 1907 Development Atlas | 1909 | 1910 Textbook | 1917 Textbook | 1921 Textbook | 1921 Foetal Membranes |1921 human | 1921 Pig implantation | 1922 Single placental artery | 1923 Placenta Review | 1939 umbilical cord | 1943 human and monkey | 1944 chorionic villus and decidua parietalis | 1946 placenta ageing | 1960 monkey | 1972 Placental circulation | Historic Disclaimer
  • Human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) - like leutenizing hormone, supports corpus luteum in ovary, pregnant state rather than menstrual, maternal urine in some pregnancy testing
  • Human chorionic somatommotropin (hCS) - or placental lactogen stimulate (maternal) mammary development
  • Human chorionic thyrotropin (hCT)
  • Human chorionic corticotrophin (hCACTH)
  • progesterone and estrogens - support maternal endometrium
  • Relaxin
  • Placenta - Maternal (decidua) and Fetal (trophoblastic cells, extraembryonic mesoderm) components
  • Endocrine function - maternal and fetal precursors, synthesis and secretion
    • Protein Hormones - chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), chorionic somatomammotropin (hCS) or placental lactogen (hPL), chorionic thyrotropin (hCT), chorionic corticotropin (hCACTH)
      • hCG - up to 20 weeks, fetal adrenal cortex growth and maintenance
      • hCS – rise through pregnancy, stimulates maternal metabolic processes, breast growth
    • Steroid Hormones - progesterone (maintains pregnancy), estrogens (fetal adrenal/placenta)

Some Recent Findings

  • Review - The endocrine function of human placenta: an overview[1] "During pregnancy, several tightly coordinated and regulated processes take place to enable proper fetal development and gestational success. The formation and development of the placenta is one of these critical pregnancy events. This organ plays essential roles during gestation, including fetal nourishment, support and protection, gas exchange and production of several hormones and other mediators. Placental hormones are mainly secreted by the syncytiotrophoblast, in a highly and tightly regulated way. These hormones are important for pregnancy establishment and maintenance, exerting autocrine and paracrine effects that regulate decidualization, placental development, angiogenesis, endometrial receptivity, embryo implantation, immunotolerance and fetal development. In addition, because they are released into maternal circulation, the profile of their blood levels throughout pregnancy has been the target of intense research towards finding potential robust and reliable biomarkers to predict and diagnose pregnancy-associated complications."
  • The feto-placental unit, and potential roles of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in prenatal and postnatal brain development[2] "Synthesis of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) by the fetal adrenal gland is important for placental oestrogen production, and may also be important for modulating the effects of glucocorticoids on the developing brain. ... Together, the studies outlined in this review indicate that the androgen DHEA is an important hormone of adrenal and Central Nervous System (CNS) origin in the fetal and postnatal spiny mouse. Disturbance of the development of these fetal tissues, and/or of the relationship between the fetal adrenal gland and placenta during pregnancy, may have significant consequences for fetal development, placental function, and maturation of the brain. It is proposed that such disturbances of normal adrenal function could account for some of the neuropathologies that arise in juvenile and adult offspring following illness and stress experienced by the mother during pregnancy."
  • Human Chorionic Gonadotropin Induces Human Macrophages to Form Intracytoplasmic Vacuoles Mimicking Hofbauer Cells in Human Chorionic Villi[3] The most characteristic morphological feature of macrophages in the stroma of placental villi, known as Hofbauer cells, is their highly vacuolated appearance. They also show positive immunostaining for human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG)."
  • Serum biomarkers for predicting pregnancy outcome in women undergoing IVF[4] "This study was performed to assess the prognostic value of serum hCG, progesterone, and inhibin A levels measured at 11 days post-ET for predicting pregnancy outcome in women participating in IVF. Between May 2005 and April 2008, sera were obtained from 70 infertile women who underwent IVF-ET at 11 days post-ET and stored. HCG, progesterone, and inhibin A levels were measured by commercial enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay kits. The predictive accuracy of hCG, progesterone, and inhibin A levels for establishment of intrauterine pregnancy and ongoing pregnancy was calculated by receiver-operating characteristic curve analysis. For the prediction of intrauterine and ongoing pregnancy, serum hCG was better than progesterone and inhibin A. The predictive performance of progesterone and inhibin A was similar. The serum progesterone and inhibin A levels were significantly correlated each other (r=0.915, p=0.010)."
More recent papers  
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This table shows an automated computer PubMed search using the listed sub-heading term.

  • Therefore the list of references do not reflect any editorial selection of material based on content or relevance.
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References listed on the rest of the content page and the associated discussion page (listed under the publication year sub-headings) do include some editorial selection based upon both relevance and availability.

Links: References | Discussion Page | Pubmed Most Recent | Journal Searches

Search term: Endocrine Placenta

Pierre Hofstee, Daniel McKeating, Anthony V Perkins, James S M Cuffe Placental adaptations to micronutrient dysregulation in the programming of chronic disease. Clin. Exp. Pharmacol. Physiol.: 2018; PubMed 29679395

N M Grindler, L Vanderlinden, R Karthikraj, K Kannan, S Teal, A J Polotsky, T L Powell, I V Yang, T Jansson Exposure to Phthalate, an Endocrine Disrupting Chemical, Alters the First Trimester Placental Methylome and Transcriptome in Women. Sci Rep: 2018, 8(1);6086 PubMed 29666409

Shouling Luo, Jiangnan Pei, Xiaotian Li, Weirong Gu Decreased expression of JHDMID in placenta is associated with preeclampsia through HLA-G. J Hum Hypertens: 2018; PubMed 29662139

Shutan Liao, Mark H Vickers, Joanna L Stanley, Philip N Baker, Jo K Perry Human placental growth hormone variant in pathological pregnancies. Endocrinology: 2018; PubMed 29659791

Sharvari S Deshpande, Nafisa H Balasinor Placental Defects: An Epigenetic Perspective. Reprod Sci: 2018;1933719118766265 PubMed 29642799

Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin

Trophoblast hCG function

Human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) like leutenizing hormone, supports corpus luteum in ovary, pregnant state rather than menstrual.

Presence in the maternal urine is the basis of some pregnancy testing.

Trophoblast cell hCG.jpg

Trophoblast cell hCG

hCG Links: Trophoblast hCG function | Trophoblast cell hCG | Human Chorionic Gonadotropin | Implantation | Placenta Development | NIH - The History of the Pregnancy Test

Placental Estrogen

Fetal adrenal cortex produces dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S) that is converted by the placenta into estrogens[5][6] Placental estrogen, mainly estriol, suppresses gonadotropin secretion from the maternal pituitary gland. Maternal estrogen levels are often a useful indicator of fetal well being.

  • Uterus - stimulates growth of the myometrium, antagonizes the myometrial-suppressing activity of progesterone.
  • Mammary Gland - stimulates mammary gland ductal and alveolar growth.
  • Fetal Ovary - stimulates development of female fetal ovary.[7]

A second role for fetal adrenal DHEA-S is possible regulation of the effects of glucocorticoids on the developing brain.[2]

Links: Adrenal Development


The placenta and corpus luteum produce relaxin, a 6 kDa peptide hormone structurally similar to insulin. The hormone stimulates in early pregnancy both uterine growth and vascularization associated with implantation. It is also postulated to have other roles in the menstrual cycle[8]

Links: Implantation

Cortiticotropin Releasing Hormone

The placenta synthesises urocortins (Ucn 1, Ucn 2, Ucn 3), cortiticotropin releasing hormone (CRH) analogues.[9] Appears to be produced by chorio-decidual cells.


  1. Costa MA. (2016). The endocrine function of human placenta: an overview. Reprod. Biomed. Online , 32, 14-43. PMID: 26615903 DOI.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Quinn TA, Ratnayake U, Dickinson H, Castillo-Melendez M & Walker DW. (2016). The feto-placental unit, and potential roles of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in prenatal and postnatal brain development: A re-examination using the spiny mouse. J. Steroid Biochem. Mol. Biol. , 160, 204-13. PMID: 26485665 DOI.
  3. Yamaguchi M, Ohba T, Tashiro H, Yamada G & Katabuchi H. (2013). Human chorionic gonadotropin induces human macrophages to form intracytoplasmic vacuoles mimicking Hofbauer cells in human chorionic villi. Cells Tissues Organs (Print) , 197, 127-35. PMID: 23128164 DOI.
  4. Kim JH, Shin MS, Yi G, Jee BC, Lee JR, Suh CS & Kim SH. (2012). Serum biomarkers for predicting pregnancy outcome in women undergoing IVF: human chorionic gonadotropin, progesterone, and inhibin A level at 11 days post-ET. Clin Exp Reprod Med , 39, 28-32. PMID: 22563548 DOI.
  5. Rainey WE, Rehman KS & Carr BR. (2004). The human fetal adrenal: making adrenal androgens for placental estrogens. Semin. Reprod. Med. , 22, 327-36. PMID: 15635500 DOI.
  6. Parker CR. (1999). Dehydroepiandrosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate production in the human adrenal during development and aging. Steroids , 64, 640-7. PMID: 10503722
  7. Albrecht ED & Pepe GJ. (2010). Estrogen regulation of placental angiogenesis and fetal ovarian development during primate pregnancy. Int. J. Dev. Biol. , 54, 397-408. PMID: 19876841 DOI.
  8. Marshall SA, Senadheera SN, Parry LJ & Girling JE. (2017). The Role of Relaxin in Normal and Abnormal Uterine Function During the Menstrual Cycle and Early Pregnancy. Reprod Sci , 24, 342-354. PMID: 27365367 DOI.
  9. Fekete EM & Zorrilla EP. (2007). Physiology, pharmacology, and therapeutic relevance of urocortins in mammals: ancient CRF paralogs. Front Neuroendocrinol , 28, 1-27. PMID: 17083971 DOI.


Costa MA. (2016). The endocrine function of human placenta: an overview. Reprod. Biomed. Online , 32, 14-43. PMID: 26615903 DOI.

John RM. (2013). Epigenetic regulation of placental endocrine lineages and complications of pregnancy. Biochem. Soc. Trans. , 41, 701-9. PMID: 23697929 DOI.

Evain-Brion D & Malassine A. (2003). Human placenta as an endocrine organ. Growth Horm. IGF Res. , 13 Suppl A, S34-7. PMID: 12914725


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Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2018, April 22) Embryology Endocrine - Placenta Development. Retrieved from https://embryology.med.unsw.edu.au/embryology/index.php/Endocrine_-_Placenta_Development

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