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Summary

The ultrastructure of the surface epithelia from the uterotubal junction (UTJ), and the adjacent tuba1 isthmic and endometrial regions, was studied in preovulatory oestrus gilts, either unmated or inseminated 12 h before with fresh boar semen. The simple columnar epithelium of the UTJ consisted of non-ciliated (secretory) and ciliated cells. Secretory vesicles occurred in the secretory cells, especially in inseminated gilts. Lymphocytes, monocytes and macrophages were found dispersed basally among the epithelial cells. Phagocytosis of epithelial cells undergoing apoptosis was seen throughout the UTJ at oestrus, increasing after insemination. Neutrophilic granulocytes were found in the lamina propia of the uterine component of the UTJ, but only occasionally in the epithelium. After insemination, neutrophils invaded the uterine epithelium, to actively participate in intraepithelial phagocytosis or move into the lumen, engulfing spermatozoa. Neutrophils were absent from the UTJ proper and the isthmic epithelium, irrespective of the presence of spermatozoa in the lumen. Those spermatozoa in the uterine lumen that escaped phagocytosis had severely damaged plasma membranes, whereas those in the UTJ proper — concentrated towards the deep furrows of the diverticulae — mostly showed normal sperm ultrastructure.