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Reproduction. 2013 May 21;145(6):541-54. doi: 10.1530/REP-13-0060. Print 2013 Jun.

Ovarian and placental morphology and endocrine functions in the pregnant giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis).

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The Paul Mellon Laboratory, 'Brunswick', 18 Woodditton Road, Newmarket, Suffolk CB8 9BJ, UK.


Gross, histological and immunocytochemical examinations carried out on maternal and fetal reproductive tissues from two pregnant giraffes at an estimated 8 and 13.5 months of gestation (term=15 months) revealed a typically ruminant macrocotyledonary placenta with binucleate trophoblast cells scattered sparsely in the placentome where they stained intensely with a prolactin antiserum. Binucleate cells were present in greater numbers in the intercotyledonary allantochorion where they did not stain for prolactin whereas the uninucleate trophoblast still did. A single large corpus luteum of pregnancy and several small luteinised follicles were present in the maternal ovaries while the fetal ovaries at 13.5 months gestation showed an assortment of enlarging antral follicles and partially and completely lutenised follicles, the granulosa and luteal cells of which stained positively for 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (3β-HSD), 17,20 lyase, prolactin, progesterone receptor and androgen receptor, but negatively for aromatase. The uninucleate trophoblast of the placentome and intercotyledonary allantochorion, the epithelium of the maternal endometrial glands, the seminiferous epithelium in the fetal testis at 8 months of gestation and the zonae fasciculata and reticularis of the fetal adrenal at 13.5 months also stained positively for 3β-HSD and negatively for aromatase. Endocrinologically, it appears that the giraffe placenta is more similar to that of the sheep than the cow with a placental lactogen as the likely driver of the considerable degree of luteinisation seen in both the maternal and the fetal ovaries.

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