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 | Thyroid | Parathyroid | Thymus‎ | Pancreas‎ | 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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Search term: Endocrine Placenta

Herbert Juch, Liudmila Nikitina, Sabine Reimann, Martin Gauster, Gottfried Dohr, Barbara Obermayer-Pietsch, Denise Hoch, Karin Kornmueller, Rainer Haag Dendritic polyglycerol nanoparticles show charge dependent bio-distribution in early human placental explants and reduce hCG secretion. Nanotoxicology: 2018;1-14 PubMed 29334310

Luca Lambertini, Shira Rebecca Saul, Alan B Copperman, Sara Salehi Hammerstad, Zhengzi Yi, Weijia Zhang, Yaron Tomer, Nathan Kase Intrauterine Reprogramming of the Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Evidence from a Pilot Study of Cord Blood Global Methylation Analysis. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne): 2017, 8;352 PubMed 29326659

Ami R Zota, Susanna D Mitro, Joshua F Robinson, Emily G Hamilton, June-Soo Park, Emily Parry, R Thomas Zoeller, Tracey J Woodruff Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and hydroxylated PBDE metabolites (OH-PBDEs) in maternal and fetal tissues, and associations with fetal cytochrome P450 gene expression. Environ Int: 2018, 112;269-278 PubMed 29316516

Cong-Cong Hou, Jun-Quan Zhu Nanoparticles and female reproductive system: how do nanoparticles affect oogenesis and embryonic development. Oncotarget: 2017, 8(65);109799-109817 PubMed 29312650

Simone De Leo, Elizabeth N Pearce Autoimmune thyroid disease during pregnancy. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol: 2017; PubMed 29246752

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. Marian A Costa The endocrine function of human placenta: an overview. Reprod. Biomed. Online: 2015; PubMed 26615903
  2. 2.0 2.1 Tracey A Quinn, Udani Ratnayake, Hayley Dickinson, Margie Castillo-Melendez, David W Walker 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.: 2015; PubMed 26485665
  3. Munekage Yamaguchi, Takashi Ohba, Hironori Tashiro, Gen Yamada, Hidetaka Katabuchi Human chorionic gonadotropin induces human macrophages to form intracytoplasmic vacuoles mimicking Hofbauer cells in human chorionic villi. Cells Tissues Organs (Print): 2013, 197(2);127-35 PubMed 23128164
  4. Jee Hyun Kim, Mi Sun Shin, Gwang Yi, Byung Chul Jee, Jung Ryeol Lee, Chang Suk Suh, Seok Hyun Kim 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: 2012, 39(1);28-32 PubMed 22563548
  5. William E Rainey, Khurram S Rehman, Bruce R Carr The human fetal adrenal: making adrenal androgens for placental estrogens. Semin. Reprod. Med.: 2004, 22(4);327-36 PubMed 15635500
  6. C R Parker Dehydroepiandrosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate production in the human adrenal during development and aging. Steroids: 1999, 64(9);640-7 PubMed 10503722
  7. Eugene D Albrecht, Gerald J Pepe Estrogen regulation of placental angiogenesis and fetal ovarian development during primate pregnancy. Int. J. Dev. Biol.: 2010, 54(2-3);397-408 PubMed 19876841
  8. Sarah A Marshall, Sevvandi N Senadheera, Laura J Parry, Jane E Girling The Role of Relaxin in Normal and Abnormal Uterine Function During the Menstrual Cycle and Early Pregnancy. Reprod Sci: 2016; PubMed 27365367
  9. Eva M Fekete, Eric P Zorrilla Physiology, pharmacology, and therapeutic relevance of urocortins in mammals: ancient CRF paralogs. Front Neuroendocrinol: 2007, 28(1);1-27 PubMed 17083971


Marian A Costa The endocrine function of human placenta: an overview. Reprod. Biomed. Online: 2015; PubMed 26615903

Rosalind M John Epigenetic regulation of placental endocrine lineages and complications of pregnancy. Biochem. Soc. Trans.: 2013, 41(3);701-9 PubMed 23697929

Danièle Evain-Brion, André Malassine Human placenta as an endocrine organ. Growth Horm. IGF Res.: 2003, 13 Suppl A;S34-7 PubMed 12914725


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Cite this page: Hill, M.A. 2018 Embryology Endocrine - Placenta Development. Retrieved January 21, 2018, from https://embryology.med.unsw.edu.au/embryology/index.php/Endocrine_-_Placenta_Development

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