Syncytial nuclear aggregates in normal placenta show increased nuclear condensation, but apoptosis and cytoskeletal redistribution are uncommon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • External authors:
  • S. J. Coleman
  • L. Gerza


Introduction: Syncytial nuclear aggregates (SNAs) are increased in pregnancy complications; however, little is known about their origin or function. This study aimed to characterise SNAs in more detail than has been reported previously. Methods: Immunohistochemistry and morphological examination at the light and ultrastructural level were used to determine the nature and structure of SNAs. Results: SNAs comprising bridges and syncytial knots had similar frequency with 974 per mm3 of villous tissue (IQR 717-1193) and 833 per mm3 (IQR 766-1190), respectively while there were approximately four times as many sectioning artefacts than knots and bridges combined. SNAs had increased proportions of condensed nuclei compared to the remaining syncytiotrophoblast (33.3% vs. 8.9%) and decreased proportions of euchromatic nuclei (0.0% vs. 16.2%), as assessed by examination of an electron micrograph archive. SNAs showed little evidence of apoptosis, with weak positivity for the apoptosis markers M30-neoepitope at 16.6% and TUNEL at 10.0%; strong staining was rarely seen for either marker. Immunofluorescence demonstrated rare association of actin (α, β or γ) with SNAs, whereas tubulin was in close proximity to SNAs and cytokeratin was seen within and surrounding SNAs. Discussion: M30-positive SNAs traced through serial sections were significantly more likely to be syncytial knots or sectioning artefacts than bridges. Nuclei within SNAs showed signs consistent with degeneration; however, this is unlikely to be an apoptotic process. There are few changes in configuration of cytoskeletal proteins around SNAs. Conclusions: These data suggest that the biogenesis and functional significance of SNAs still require resolution. ©2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-455
Number of pages6
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2013