Contribution of adenosine-producing ectoenzymes to the mechanisms underlying the mitigation of maternal-fetal conflicts

M. Cecati, M. Emanuelli, S. R. Giannubilo, V. Quarona, R. Senetta, F. Malavasi, A. L. Tranquilli, Franca Saccucci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The interactions taking place between mother and embryo have been the focus of detailed studies in recent years, where pregnancy is considered as an in vivo transplant. The immune systems of the mother and the embryo together establish a condition of tolerance, which lasts throughout the pregnancy. Alongside immunogenetic components, a contribution is provided by the ectoenzyme network, a chain of surface molecules mainly operating in closed environments and potentially providing inhibitory or activator signals. One of the soluble products of the ectoenzyme network with immunosuppressory potential is adenosine, a purine nucleoside that plays multiple roles in almost all tissues and organs. The hypothesis behind the work was studied in patients with recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL), an event which remains unexplained in over 50% of cases. To this aim, we analyzed the expression of CD39 (ectonucleoside triphosphate diphosphohydrolase 1, ENTPD1) and CD73 (ecto-5′-nucleotidase, NT5E), the main pathway for adenosine generation, in samples obtained from women with RPL. The study included the evaluation of the expression of TNF-α (a pro-inflammatory cytokine) and of an alternative pathway of adenosine generation run by CD38 (ADP-ribosyl cyclase/cyclic ADP-ribose hydrolase) and PC-1 (ectonucleotide pyrophosphatase/phosphodiesterase 1, ENPP1). The results of this study highlight the existence of a network of surface enzymes expressed at the maternal/fetal interface and addressed to the production of adenosine. Perturbation of this network may induce a rescue pathway driven by CD38 and ENPP1. Ectoenzyme and inflammation may be considered now key elements in orchestrating the events leading to the interruption of pregnancy in the RPL sample analyzed and at the same potentially becoming therapeutic targets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)519-529
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Biological Regulators and Homeostatic Agents
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013


  • CD38
  • CD39
  • CD73
  • Ectoenzyme network
  • ENPP1
  • Local tolerance
  • TNF-α

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Endocrinology
  • Physiology
  • Cancer Research


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