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J Anat. 2002 Aug;201(2):101-19.

Ultrastructure of the placenta of the tammar wallaby, Macropus eugenii: comparison with the grey short-tailed opossum, Monodelphis domestica.

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Department of Zoology, The University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.


The ultrastructure of the tammar placenta was studied throughout pregnancy. The uterine epithelium grows from a columnar to an enlarged, undulating epithelium between early gestation and mid-gestation when the shell coat that surrounds the marsupial conceptus ruptures. Trophectoderm and uterine epithelium do not form syncytia, nor does invasion of the endometrium occur at any stage of pregnancy. Uterine secretion is provided to both the bilaminar and the trilaminar side of the yolk sac placenta up to birth. Fenestrations, abundant vesicles and lumenal processes of maternal capillaries, as well as deep basal folds of the uterine epithelium, suggest that there is transfer of hemotrophes adjacent to both parts of the yolk sac. In contrast, in the grey short-tailed opossum, these structures are lacking. The yolk sacs of adjacent embryos fuse to form a common yolk sac cavity, thus losing most of the bilaminar yolk sac. The bilaminar and trilaminar components of the yolk sac placenta of the tammar are less different in structure and function than those of the grey short-tailed opossum, but both types are fully functional placentas. The extended secretory phase of the tammar uterus and the maternal recognition of early pregnancy appear to be derived characters of macropodid marsupials.

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