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Keywords:

  • placenta;
  • chorioallantois;
  • allantoplacenta;
  • oviduct;
  • fetal membranes;
  • viviparity

Abstract

Transmission electron microscopy was used to examine the ultrastructure of the allantoplacenta of garter snakes during the last half of gestation. This placenta occupies the dorsal hemisphere of the egg and is formed through apposition of the chorioallantois to the inner lining of the uterus. The uterine epithelium consists of flattened cells with short, irregular microvilli and others that bear cilia. The lamina propria is vascularized and its capillaries lie at the base of the uterine epithelial cells. The chorionic epithelium consists of a bilayer of squamous cells that are particularly thin superficial to the allantoic capillaries. Neither the chorionic epithelium nor the uterine epithelium undergoes erosion during development. Although a thin remnant of the shell membrane intervenes between fetal and maternal tissue at mid-gestation, it undergoes fragmentation by the end of gestation. Thus, uterine and chorionic epithelial are directly apposed in some regions of the allantoplacenta, forming continuous cellular boundaries at the placental interface. During development, capillaries proliferate in both the uterine and chorioallantoic tissues. By late gestation, the interhemal diffusion distance has thinned in some areas to less than 2 μm through attenuation of the uterine and chorionic epithelia. Morphologically, the allantoplacenta is well adapted for its function in gas exchange. However, the presence of cytoplasmic vesicles, ribosomal ER, and mitochondria in the chorionic and uterine epithelial cells are consistent with the possibility of additional forms of placental exchange. J. Morphol. 256:171–186, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.