• Choriocarcinoma;
  • culture;
  • immunosuppression;
  • trophoblast

PROBLEM: Immunosuppressive factor(s) of trophoblast origin may contribute to the immunological privilege afforded the fetal allograft. Characterization of these immunoregulators in humans has been impeded by a lack of sufficient quantities of early gestational trophoblast for experimentation.

METHOD: In this study, a cloned choriocarcinoma cell line (BeWo) was evaluated as an experimental model of trophoblast-derived immunoregulation. BeWo cells were cultured in both serum-supplemented (15% fetal bovine serum; FCS-CM) and serum-free (10% bovine serum albumin, BSA-CM; 0.01% gelatin, Gel-CM) media. Immunosuppressive activity was determined through the use of interleukin-2-dependent (CTLL-2) and -independent (LBRM) cell lines. Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) levels were determined by an immunoradiometric assay, and cellular morphology was assessed by light microscopy.

RESULTS: In the serum-supplemented cultures, a portion of cells underwent transformation from single nucleated cytotrophoblast to multinucleated syncytiotrophoblast during days 1 to 5 of culture and was accompanied by a rise in hCG. Serum-free cultures were characterized as islands of cytotrophoblast and did not exhibit differentiation. FCS-CM suppressed CTLL-2 and LBRM proliferation with estimated EC50 values of 415 and 280 μg protein/ mL, respectively. Gel-CM suppressed CTLL-2 and LBRM proliferation with EC50 values of 12 and 7 μg protein/mL, respectively. BSA-CM suppressed CTLL-2 proliferation with an EC50 of 132 μg protein/mL, but failed to suppress LBRM proliferation below 50% of control.

CONCLUSION: These results suggest that the BeWo cell line is a promising model for the study of trophoblast-derived suppressive factors and that these factors can be generated in serum-free medium.