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The ruminant placental trophoblast binucleate cell: an evolutionary breakthrough.

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Wooding, FBP 


Viviparity and the development of a placenta are two of the major reasons for the success of the mammals in colonizing all habitats, both terrestrial and aquatic. The placenta is an apposition of fetal to maternal tissue which serves two main, but competing functions: to maximize oxygen transfer and the acquisition of nutrients from the mother, but to minimize immunological rejection by the maternal immune system. This has resulted in the evolution of four main types differing in the degree of loss of the maternal uterine epithelial (UE) barrier: epitheliochorial, synepitheliochorial, endotheliochorial, and hemochorial, all providing a successful safe balance between the needs of mother and fetus. Epitheliochorial is the least invasive, a simple apposition and microvillar interdigitation of the apices of uterine epithelium and trophoblast. It is suggested to have evolved as a response to the increase in the size of the animal to provide a sufficiently long gestation to produce a single altricial (run/swim-soon-as-born) neonate as in the Cetartiodactyla. The mother needs to have good control of the fetal demands so the UE barrier is maintained. However, in the synepitheliochorial placenta, characteristic of all ruminants, the fetus has evolved a means of increasing, or at least maintaining, demand without the need for invasion. This has been achieved by the development of the trophoblast binucleate cell which, uniquely, can fuse with a UE cell to form fetomaternal hybrid tissue. This can maintain some maternal barrier function but also deliver fetally synthesized immunomodulatory and metabolic messages to the maternal circulation. This review provides the evidence for this remarkable evolutionary step and also considers an alternative explanation for the formation of the structure of the ruminant placenta.



cell fusion, fetomaternal cell, placental evolution, ruminant placenta, trophoblast binucleate cells, Animals, Female, Fetus, Parturition, Placenta, Pregnancy, Ruminants, Trophoblasts

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Biol Reprod

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Oxford University Press (OUP)