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Abstract

Implantation sites from rats were studied on days 6, 7, and 8 of pregnancy to determine the sequence of events in the formation of blood spaces in the trophoblast that is part of the parietal wall of the yolk sac placenta and to determine how trophoblast gains access to maternal blood. The maternal blood flowing through these spaces is the source of nutrients that reach the embryo via the visceral endoderm. Tissues were prepared for light microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, and transmission electron microscopy. Trophoblast blood spaces are derived from the lateral intercellular spaces of trophoblast cells and are present in a collapsed condition until day 8, when maternal vessels are tapped by trophoblast. These spaces than contain circulating maternal blood, and trophoblast cells reflect adaptations for metabolic exchange including thinning of trophoblast covering Reichert's membrane and the appearance of numerous fenestrations, with and without diaphragms, in the areas where trophoblast is attenuated. Between days 6 and 7 decidual cells appear to form a barrier between the maternal circulation and trophoblast. On day 7, however, decidual cell processes penetrate the residual uterine luminal epithelial basal lamina, and then the decidual cells that are juxtaposed to trophoblast undergo degradative changes that resemble apoptosis. There is condensation of cytoplasmic contents, fragmentation of the cells, and phagocytosis of the fragments by trophoblast. Some decidual cells are interposed between endothelial cells in the walls of maternal vessels as early as day 7. Trophoblast may gain access to the maternal vessels by replacing decidual cells or by direct imposition of trophoblast cell processes between endothelial cells.