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Placenta. 2011 May;32(5):400-8. doi: 10.1016/j.placenta.2011.02.009. Epub 2011 Apr 2.

Deep trophoblast invasion and spiral artery remodelling in the placental bed of the chimpanzee.

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Department of Woman & Child, University Hospital Leuven, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium.


Deep trophoblast invasion is usually considered to be a unique feature of human placentation as compared to other primates. Because of the occasional occurrence of preeclampsia in great apes, which in the human is associated with impaired deep invasion, this uniqueness may be questioned. The availability of two well-documented pregnant chimpanzee uteri in the Hubrecht Collection (Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin) allowed us to evaluate the extent of trophoblast invasion in this species. By adjusting currently used protocols, we obtained successful immunohistochemical staining for cytokeratin and α-actin, as well as Ulex europaeus agglutinin 1 (UEA1) lectin staining, in this archival material. In both specimens interstitial trophoblast invasion had occurred in both decidua and myometrium. Because of a lack of published data on fetal growth for this species, fetal sizes (7cm and 13cm) could not be strictly related to gestational ages and thus be compared with the time-course of human trophoblast invasion. However, since the earlier specimen did not show any endovascular trophoblast invasion in spiral arteries - in contrast to pregnant human uteri with equivalent fetal sizes - endovascular migration seems to begin at a different gestational age in the chimpanzee. In the later specimen endovascular trophoblast was associated with spiral artery remodelling in the inner myometrium, and this invasion was extended to include a radial artery, which at that stage still showed relatively intact vascular smooth muscle and elastic lamina. We conclude that invasion depth and spiral artery remodelling are basically similar in chimpanzees and humans, although the seemingly different time of onset may have implications for uteroplacental oxygen supply and fetal development.

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