Royal Society Publishing

Differentiated Regions of Human Placental Cell Surface Associated with Attachment of Chorionic Villi, Phagocytosis of Maternal Erythrocytes and Syncytiotrophoblast Repair

Jane M. Clint, Jennifer Wakely, C. D. Ockleford


Scanning electron micrographs of human placental cell surface show: (1) Differentiated zones of trophoblast which may be covered by fewer 'microvilli' than the adjacent syncytial cell surface and which extend as a narrow, usually distal protrusion of the chorionic villus. This narrow outgrowth terminates as a fractured end. Presumably since preparations were obtained from therapeutic terminations of pregnancy or Caesarian deliveries these broken ends represent the yield point in the anchoring 'villi' ruptured as a result of surgery. Similar anchoring 'villi' with fractured ends were observed in unfixed material with the use of Nomarski interference contrast microscopy. (2) It appears that, during apparent phagocytic uptake of maternal erythrocytes by syncytiotrophoblast, cell surface lining the forming vacuole still retains an irregular microvillous surface. This observation indicates the potential location of phagocytosis receptors for red blood cells in the placental cell surface. (3) Areas of human placenta which appear to have been damaged and may be undergoing repair exhibit masses of cells with conspicuous microvillar cell surfaces. The origin of these cells is discussed in relation to the usual processes of syncytiotrophoblast formation.

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