PLACENTAL TROPHOBLAST DEVELOPMENT AND VASCULARIZATION During human and nonhuman primate pregnancy, the placenta simultaneously accesses the maternal blood and develops a vascular network for the transport of nutrients to and waste products from the fetus across the syncytiotrophoblast to ensure fetal growth and development. Both processes depend on the ability of the primordial stem-cell cytotrophoblasts to take either the villous pathway where they remain in the fetal compartment and differentiate morphologically into the syncytiotrophoblast or the extravillous pathway where they proliferate, aggregate into cell columns of the anchoring villi, and invade the endometrial stroma (Fig. 6). 105 The syncytiotrophoblast covers the floating chorionic villi that become highly vascularized, whereas the extravillous cytotrophoblasts infiltrate the walls of the spiral arterioles to facilitate the process of placentation.
Biosynthesis of cholesterol is directly regulated by the cholesterol levels present, though the homeostatic mechanisms involved are only partly understood. A higher intake from food leads to a net decrease in endogenous production, whereas lower intake from food has the opposite effect. The main regulatory mechanism is the sensing of intracellular cholesterol in the endoplasmic reticulum by the protein SREBP (sterol regulatory element-binding protein 1 and 2). In the presence of cholesterol, SREBP is bound to two other proteins: SCAP (SREBP-cleavage-activating protein) and Insig1. When cholesterol levels fall, Insig-1 dissociates from the SREBP-SCAP complex, allowing the complex to migrate to the Golgi apparatus, where SREBP is cleaved by S1P and S2P (site-1 and -2 protease), two enzymes that are activated by SCAP when cholesterol levels are low. The cleaved SREBP then migrates to the nucleus and acts as a transcription factor to bind to the SRE (sterol regulatory element), which stimulates the transcription of many genes. Among these are the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor and HMG-CoA reductase. The former scavenges circulating LDL from the bloodstream, whereas HMG-CoA reductase leads to an increase of endogenous production of cholesterol. A large part of this signaling pathway was clarified by Dr. Michael S. Brown and Dr. Joseph L. Goldstein in the 1970s. In 1985, they received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work. Their subsequent work shows how the SREBP pathway regulates expression of many genes that control lipid formation and metabolism and body fuel allocation. Cholesterol synthesis can be turned off when cholesterol levels are high, as well. HMG CoA reductase contains both a cytosolic domain (responsible for its catalytic function) and a membrane domain. The membrane domain functions to sense signals for its degradation. Increasing concentrations of cholesterol (and other sterols) cause a change in this domain's oligomerization state, which makes it more susceptible to destruction by the proteosome. This enzyme's activity can also be reduced by phosphorylation by an AMP-activated protein kinase. Because this kinase is activated by AMP, which is produced when ATP is hydrolyzed, it follows that cholesterol synthesis is halted when ATP levels are low  .
In the current study, the research group led by postdoctoral researcher Dan Hu and Professor Ikuro Abe at the Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, the University of Tokyo, identified the biosynthetic enzymes of helvolic acids, and constructed a helvolic acid-producing system by expressing them in Aspergillus oryzae, a type of mold commonly known as koji, which is used for fermentation in food production. The researchers isolated novel helvolic acid analogs by isolating the biosynthetic intermediates from the system. Remarkably, some of the analogs exhibited better activity than helvolic acid, thereby illustrating the utility of this production system. By comparing the structures, the research group found that the structural difference at the A and B rings of the compounds are important for antibiotic activity. Furthermore, the group clarified the C-4 demethylation pathway, which involves a P-450 oxidase and a reductase.