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Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2007 Dec;148(4):769-79. Epub 2007 Feb 2.

Evolution of the placenta during the early radiation of placental mammals.

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1
Museum of Natural History, Department of Research, Humboldt University Berlin, Invalidenstr. 43, DE-10115 Berlin, Germany. andrea.mess@museum.hu-berlin.de

Abstract

The chorioallantoic placenta is an organ of gaseous exchange that exhibits a high degree of structural diversity. One factor determining oxygen transfer across the placenta, the diffusion distance, is in part dependent on the number of cell layers separating maternal from fetal blood. This interhaemal barrier occurs in three principal variants. The focus of this review is on determining how the barrier evolved in placental mammals. The analysis was based on current knowledge of placental structure, as far as possible using ultrastructural data, and on current views about the evolution of placental mammals, derived from molecular phylogenetics. We show that epitheliochorial placentation, the least invasive type, is a derived state and discuss factors that may have determined its evolution with reference to conflict theory, as applied to the allocation of resources between mother and fetus. It is not yet possible to determine which of the two more invasive types of placentation occurred in the last common ancestor of crown placentals. Depending on tree topology and taxon sampling, the result achieved is either endotheliochorial, haemochorial or unresolved. Finally we discuss other factors important to placental gas exchange and point to physiological variables that might become amenable to phylogenetic analysis.

PMID:
17347003
DOI:
10.1016/j.cbpa.2007.01.029
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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