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J Morphol. 2003 Dec;258(3):346-57.

Viviparous lizard, Eulamprus tympanum, shows changes in the uterine surface epithelium during early pregnancy that are similar to the plasma membrane transformation of mammals.

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School of Biological Sciences and Wildlife Research Institute (A08), University of Sydney, N.S.W. 2006, Australia.


The "plasma membrane transformation" describes a series of ultrastructural, biochemical, and morphological changes that occur in the uterus of many mammals at the time of blastocyst attachment. These changes, regardless of placental type or length of gestation, include alterations to microvillar length and density and the presence or absence of pinopods or uterodomes. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) was used to 1) document the topographical ultrastructure of the uterus of Eulamprus tympanum, an eastern Australian viviparous skink with a simple chorioallantoic placenta, for the first time; and 2) determine whether changes identified as "plasma membrane transformation" in mammals occur in E. tympanum. Tissues collected over three seasons from nonreproductive subadult females, preovulatory, postovulatory, and early to mid-gestational females were examined. At low magnification the uterine epithelium of subadults displays a distinctive pattern of tissue folding that includes rectangular areas of tissue delineated by deep lateral and transverse folds. At higher magnification, the uterine epithelium surface is composed of two dominant cell types, i.e., those covered by microvilli and ciliated cells. The folding pattern observed in subadults is less evident in vitellogenic females and the cell surfaces appear highly secretory, with bulging cell apices. Tissue from postovulatory lizards has no distinctive folding pattern and cell surfaces are frequently smooth and lack microvilli. Uterine egg chambers lack ciliated cells at the embryonic pole, but display abundant secretory droplets. Thus, the uterus of E. tympanum undergoes a plasma membrane transformation. The scope of this transformation is not fully understood but may be related to the complexity of placental structure and the development of the embryo/fetus at parturition.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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