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Placentation in the alpaca Lama pacos


Reproduction in South American camelids is poorly studied. To extend our knowledge of the development and cellular physiology of the placenta in the alpaca Lama pacos, we have examined specimens from day 150 of pregnancy to term. Morphological investigations using light, transmission and scanning electron microscopy, the histochemical localization of iron, alkaline and acid phosphatase activity, and the immunodetection of placental lactogen hormone were performed. Throughout pregnancy there was a progressive increase in the depths of folds on the uterine mucosa surface together with a thickening of the endometrium. Glandular cells exhibited PAS and acid phosphatase (AcP) positive secretion granules. In the chorion, giant trophoblast polyploid cells gradually became more numerous and larger. Non-giant cells exhibited positive granules for PAS, alkaline phosphatase (AkP) reaction and immunostaining for bovine placental lactogen hormone (PLH). SDS -PAGE electrophoresis and Western blotting procedures also confirmed the presence of a bovine PLH-like glycoprotein in the fetal alpaca placenta. Over the glandular openings, the chorion formed typical areolae, where the trophoblast exhibited AcP and PAS positive reactions. At these sites, the fetal endothelial cells contained iron-storage granules in their cytoplasm. The trophoblast-epithelial interface exhibited a complex microvillous interdigitation, in which an AkP reaction was very prominent. The chorionic capillaries progressively indented adjacent trophoblast cells. These data suggest that although the epitheliochorial alpaca placenta is diffuse, various trophoblast cell types and specialized areas of the maternofetal interface give the placenta micro-regional functions where histiotrophic nutrition, hormone production and molecular exchange are prevalent.

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This study was supported by grants from FAPESP. 98/02852-2. Gaspar F. Lima, Edson R. Oliveira, Wilson R. Azevedo, Sebastião Boleta and Gerson B. Silva are acknowledged for their technical assistance. Colleagues Guido Pérez, Uberto Olarte, Máximo Melo and Rolando Alencastre for helping with sample collection. We also thank all personnel of the La Raya Research Center and Institute of Camelids South American-IIPC, Puno-Perú and Dr. Peter Wooding for generously donating the monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies against PLH and helpful suggestions.

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Correspondence to Estela Bevilacqua.

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Olivera, L., Zago, D., Leiser, R. et al. Placentation in the alpaca Lama pacos . Anat Embryol 207, 45–62 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00429-003-0328-3

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  • Camelid
  • Trophoblast
  • Chorion
  • Endometrium
  • Maternofetal interactions
  • Placental lactogen hormone