Morphological Characterization of Basally Located Uninucleate Trophoblast Cells as Precursors of Bovine Binucleate Trophoblast Giant Cells

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Binucleate trophoblast giant cells (TGCs) are one characteristic feature of the ruminant placenta. In cows, the frequency of TGCs remains constant for most of the duration of pregnancy. As TGCs are depleted by their fusion with uterine epithelial cells, they need to be constantly formed. It is still unclear whether they develop from stem cells within the trophectoderm or whether they can arise from any uninucleate trophoblast cell (UTC). Within the latter, generally accepted theory, a basally located uninucleate cell (BUC) without contact to the feto-maternal interface would represent a transient cell between a UTC and a TGC. So far, no evidence for the existence of such transient cells or for the presence of stem cells has been shown. The aim of the present study is to morphologically characterize the early stages of TGC development. Placentomal tissue of 6 pregnant cows from different gestational stages (gestational days 51–214) was examined for BUCs, UTCs, and TGCs either in serial sections (light and transmission electron microscopy, TEM, n = 3), in single sections (TEM, n = 2), or by serial block face-scanning electron microscopy (n = 1). These investigations revealed the occurrence of BUCs, as well as young TGCs showing contact with the basement membrane (BM), but without apical contact to the feto-maternal interface. The study morphologically defines these 2 cell types as early stages of TGC development and shows that binucleation of TGCs can precede detachment from the BM.

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