Research ArticleCELL BIOLOGY

TMEM16F phospholipid scramblase mediates trophoblast fusion and placental development

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Science Advances  06 May 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 19, eaba0310
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aba0310


Cell-cell fusion or syncytialization is fundamental to the reproduction, development, and homeostasis of multicellular organisms. In addition to various cell type–specific fusogenic proteins, cell surface externalization of phosphatidylserine (PS), a universal eat-me signal in apoptotic cells, has been observed in different cell fusion events. Nevertheless, the molecular underpinnings of PS externalization and cellular mechanisms of PS-facilitated cell-cell fusion are unclear. Here, we report that TMEM16F, a Ca2+-activated phospholipid scramblase (CaPLSase), plays an essential role in placental trophoblast fusion by translocating PS to cell surface independent of apoptosis. The placentas from the TMEM16F knockout mice exhibit deficiency in trophoblast syncytialization and placental development, which lead to perinatal lethality. We thus identified a new biological function of TMEM16F CaPLSase in trophoblast fusion and placental development. Our findings provide insight into understanding cell-cell fusion mechanism of other cell types and on mitigating pregnancy complications such as miscarriage, intrauterine growth restriction, and preeclampsia.

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