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Placenta. 2001 Sep-Oct;22(8-9):749-67.

A structural and immunological study of chorionic gonadotrophin production by equine trophoblast girdle and cup cells.

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The Physiological Laboratory, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge, UK.


Equine chorionic gonadotropin (eCG) production by the fetally derived endometrial cups appears to be necessary for the establishment and maintenance of normal equine pregnancy. Starting at about the 27th day of pregnancy, an equatorial band of trophectodermal cells on the surface of the spherical conceptus forms the chorionic girdle. This girdle consists initially of flat trophectodermal epithelium which corrugates into folds as the cells proliferate. The folds are then pressed against the uterine epithelium by expansion of the conceptus. The cells on the apices of the folds become binucleate before they start to invade the endometrium at days 35-37. Ultrastructural immunogold labelling shows that they begin to synthesize eCG as early as day 32, before they migrate into and through the maternal epithelium. Clusters of the girdle binucleate cells penetrate deep into the endometrium. The mature cup cell has a cytoplasm full of mitochondria, rough endoplasmic reticulum cisternae, a large Golgi apparatus and a strong immunoreactivity for the glucose transporter 1 isoform on its plasmalemma. Immunocytochemistry also demonstrates that eCG is localized in the Golgi cisternae, and in small dense granules similar to those found in the migrating girdle cell and present both in the Golgi region and at the peripheral plasmalemma. Release of eCG would therefore seem to be by the usual exocytotic mechanism as found for other protein hormones. The small size and absence of any significant accumulation of eCG-containing granules are in marked contrast to the numerous large luteinizing hormone (eLH) containing granules in the equine pituitary gonadotroph, although both hormones, eLH and eCG, show complete identity at the amino acid sequence level. These morphological indicators suggest that the cup cell secretes eCG constitutively (that is, continuously), with no requirement for secretagogues, whereas in the pituitary cell the regulated pathway is utilized capable of massive secretion under appropriate stimulation.

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