Transcriptomic and functional analyses of 3D placental extravillous trophoblast spheroids
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Placental extravillous trophoblast (EVT) invasion is essential in establishing proper blood supply to the fetus during pregnancy. However, traditional 2D in vitro systems do not model the in vivo invasion process in an anatomically-relevant manner. Our objectives were to develop a 3D spheroid model that would allow better emulation of placental invasion in vitro and to characterize the transcriptomic and functional outcomes. HTR8/SVneo EVT cells were self-assembled into 3D spheroids using ultra-low attachment plates. Transcriptomic profiling followed by gene set enrichment and gene ontology analyses revealed major global transcriptomic differences, with significant up-regulations in EVTs cultured as 3D spheroids in canonical pathways and biological processes such as immune response, angiogenesis, response to stimulus, wound healing, and others. These findings were further validated by RT-qPCR, showing significant up-regulations in genes and/or proteins related to epithelial-mesenchymal transition, cell-cell contact, angiogenesis, and invasion/migration. A high-throughput, spheroid invasion assay was applied to reveal the dynamic invasion of EVTs away from the spheroid core into extracellular matrix. Lastly, lipopolysaccharide, dexamethasone, or Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol exposure was found to impact the invasion of EVT spheroids. Altogether, we present a well-characterized, 3D spheroid model of EVT invasion and demonstrate its potential use in drug and toxin screening during pregnancy.
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