CD59 (leukocyte cluster of differentiation antigen 59), is a phosphatidylinositol glycan-anchored membrane protein that inhibits lysis of cells by terminal complement system components. To further define complement regulatory proteins relevant to pregnancy, this study characterized the expression of CD59 in human extraembryonic membranes. Immunohistology with CD59 monoclonal antibody MEM-43 showed that this molecule was normally present on the apical surface of the syncytiotrophoblast, on extravillous cytotrophoblast, and amniotic epithelium. Immunoblotting confirmed that first and second trimester syncytiotrophoblast microvilli (STM) contained a glycoprotein similar in mass and glycosylation to CD59 from adult cells and tissues. Reactivities of STM with MEM-43 in ELISA were 2- to 6-fold higher than those of kidney, erythrocyte and platelet membranes. Term placental STM from recurrent spontaneous aborting patients after immunotherapy, reacted with MEM-43 in ELISA similarly to STM from normal individuals. Plasmas from pregnant women and umbilical cords had 50% or greater reactivity with MEM-43 than did normal plasmas. CD59 could help protect extraembryonic epithelia from damage by complement in maternal blood and amniotic fluid. The apical location of CD59 reflects the immunological roles and functional polarization of plasma membranes in the syncytiotrophoblast.

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