TFEB controls syncytiotrophoblast formation and hormone production in placenta

Authors: Marcella Cesana, Gennaro Tufano, Francesco Panariello, Nicolina Zampelli, Chiara Soldati, Margherita Mutarelli, Sandro Montefusco, Giuseppina Grieco, Lucia Vittoria Sepe, Barbara Rossi, Edoardo Nusco, Giada Rossignoli, Giorgia Panebianco, Fabrizio Merciai, Emanuela Salviati, Eduardo Maria Sommella, Pietro Campiglia, Graziano Martello, Davide Cacchiarelli, Diego Luis Medina & Andrea Ballabio
Year: 2024
Sources: Cell Death & Differentiation
TFEB, a bHLH-leucine zipper transcription factor belonging to the MiT/TFE family, globally modulates cell metabolism by regulating autophagy and lysosomal functions. Remarkably, loss of TFEB in mice causes embryonic lethality due to severe defects in placentation associated with aberrant vascularization and resulting hypoxia. However, the molecular mechanism underlying this phenotype has remained elusive. By integrating in vivo analyses with multi-omics approaches and functional assays, we have uncovered an unprecedented function for TFEB in promoting the formation of a functional syncytiotrophoblast in the placenta. Our findings demonstrate that constitutive loss of TFEB in knock-out mice is associated with defective formation of the syncytiotrophoblast layer. Indeed, using in vitro models of syncytialization, we demonstrated that TFEB translocates into the nucleus during syncytiotrophoblast formation and binds to the promoters of crucial placental genes, including genes encoding fusogenic proteins (Syncytin-1 and Syncytin-2) and enzymes involved in steroidogenic pathways, such as CYP19A1, the rate-limiting enzyme for the synthesis of 17β-Estradiol (E2). Conversely, TFEB depletion impairs both syncytial fusion and endocrine properties of syncytiotrophoblast, as demonstrated by a significant decrease in the secretion of placental hormones and E2 production. Notably, restoration of TFEB expression resets syncytiotrophoblast identity. Our findings identify that TFEB controls placental development and function by orchestrating both the transcriptional program underlying trophoblast fusion and the acquisition of endocrine function, which are crucial for the bioenergetic requirements of embryonic development.
Category: journals