The aim of the present study was to evaluate the possible presence of immunoreactive neuropeptide-gamma (irNPY) in human placenta. Acidic extracts of human placental tissue collected at term pregnancy contained high irNPY concentrations. The extracted irNPY eluted from HPLC with the same retention time as synthetic NPY. The presence of the peptide in placental cells was confirmed by immunohistochemical findings showing numerous cells of the cytotrophoblast layer positively staining for NPY. Further supporting local production of the peptide, primary cultures of human placental cells released irNPY into the culture medium and the addition of high K+ concentrations increased the release of the peptide. The finding of irNPY in human placenta stimulated the characterization of binding sites of NPY in the same tissue. Using autoradiographic techniques we showed specific binding of [125I]NPY in human placental tissue. The binding of [125I]NPY to the placental receptors was saturable and widely distributed within the placental tissue. Finally, the addition of NPY to the medium of cultured placental cells increased the release of immunoreactive CRF, suggesting a possible role of NPY in placental hormone production. The effect of NPY was dose related and augmented by the addition of norepinephrine (10 nM). These results showed that human placenta produces and secretes irNPY and that NPY receptors are present in placental tissue. Moreover, the evidence that NPY stimulated the release of immunoreactive CRF from cultured placental cells suggests an action of NPY in placental hormonogenesis.
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