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Abstract

The structure of the equine chorionic girdle between days 28 and 42 of gestation was examined. Of particular interest were differentiation of trophoblastic cells within the girdle, adhesion between girdle and endometrium, invasion and displacement of the uterine epithelium, and the nature of the endometrium when girdle cells migrate into it to form endometrial cup cells. The chorionic girdle, identified initially as a band of tall columnar cells, becomes a stratified columnar epithelium indented by clefts and pits. Adhesion to and penetration through the endometrial luminal epithelium are rapid and occur initially in very limited areas. Stromal invasion occurs as strands of contiguous trophoblast cells invade through the basal lamina. Only girdle cells that are adjacent to the basal lamina or have entered the endometrial stroma undergo hypertrophy and differentiate into cup cells. At the initiation of trophoblastic invasion, the luminal epithelium contains numerous, large, intra-epithelial, granular lymphocytes; small lymphocytes then accumulate in the stroma, but by day 42 lymphocytes are largely confined to the periphery of the cup. Although adhesion of trophoblast to the endometrial surface is initiated by small groups of girdle cells on restricted areas of the endometrial folds, the area is then increased by new areas of adhesion and by expansion of the initial invasion. Areas of girdle cells that do not attach undergo necrosis, as do superficial portions of areas of invasion. Consequently the girdle cells that form cups may be a minority of the original population. It is suggested that the differentiation of girdle cells is closely programmed and that cells that do not reach the stroma become necrotic at the same time that endometrial cup cells are differentiating.