PROBLEM: While activated/phagocytosing phagocytes infiltrating to the chorioamnion are considered to be one of the causal agents of preterm labor onset, whether placental villous macrophages (Hofbauer cells) are activated/phagocytosing in this condition is not known.
METHOD OF STUDY: We concomitantly localized two important phagocytosis-related enzymes, acid phosphatase (ACP) and glucose- 6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD), in Hofbauer cells in second trimester placental villi, and compared them with those from infection-related second trimester-spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) placentas.
RESULTS: There were two types of Hofbauer cells. The first cells exhibited ACP stainings confined to the lysosomes, suggesting that they are dormant/non-activated cells. Approximately two-thirds of these cells showed weak G6PD labeling on the cytosolic side of endoplasmic reticula, and G6PD labeling was hardly recognizable in the remaining one-third. The second cells, possessing large phagosomes, showed marked ACP labeling in the phagosomes, suggesting that they are activated/phagocytosing cells. All these cells exhibited G6PD labeling, and in ‘bursting cells’ (possibly hyperactivated cells) G6PD deposits were marked. The percentage of activated cells in miscarriage placentas was significantly higher (44.8 ± 6.0%) than that in gestational age-matched controls (17.4 ± 5.3%).
CONCLUSIONS: These observations indicated that (1) G6PD activity increased in activated/phagocytosing Hofbauer cells, and (2) the percentage of phagocytosing cells increased in infection-related miscarriage placentas. Hofbauer activation and G6PD may play an role in the pathogenesis/pathophysiology of preterm labor onset.