Contractions of the adult epididymal duct are well known in the context of sperm transport. Some reports also describe contractions of the epididymal duct during development, but data about their character, regulation and function are sparse. In the foetal human epididymis we found luminal cells and could identify them as exfoliated epithelial cells originating from the epididymis and not from testis by using antibodies against neutral endopeptidase as an epithelial epididymal duct marker. Exfoliated cells were also found in the epididymal duct after birth. Time-lapse imaging revealed directional transport of luminal cells in the neonatal rat epididymis interrupted by pendular movement. Spontaneous contractions were discovered in the neonatal epididymis and an association between these contractions and the transport of the luminal cells could be observed. Both, transport and spontaneous contractions, were affected significantly by substances known to contract (noradrenaline) or relax (the phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitor sildenafil) smooth muscle cells. Immunohistochemistry showed staining for the proliferation marker proliferating-cell-nuclear-antigen (PCNA) in cells of the ductal lumen of the neonatal rat epididymis indicating the extrusion of cells also during proliferation. Our data showed spontaneous contractions of the immature epididymal duct associated with the transport of exfoliated luminal cells before the first occurrence of sperm cells. Results suggest an important role including both (i) a mechanical place holder function of exfoliated luminal cells (ii) together with a novel idea of organized waste disposal of these cells during development.
Daniela Weiser, Andrea Mietens, Beatrix Stadler, Davor Ježek, Gerhard Schuler and Ralf Middendorff
Sima Shenavai, Susanne Preissing, Bernd Hoffmann, Marc Dilly, Christiane Pfarrer, Gözde R Özalp, Caglar Caliskan, Kamil Seyrek-Intas and Gerhard Schuler
A pronounced increase in fetal cortisol concentrations stimulating an increase in estrogen production at the expense of progesterone precursors in the placenta, luteolysis, and progesterone withdrawal is considered as a key event during the complex signal cascade leading to the initiation of parturition in cattle. However, there are many questions concerning the exact functional and/or temporal relationships between these individual processes which finally result in the expulsion of the calf and the timely release of the placenta. Thus, parturition was induced in 270-day pregnant cows using the progesterone receptor blocker aglepristone (group AG, n=3), the prostaglandin F2α analog cloprostenol (group PG, n=4), and the glucocorticoid dexamethasone (group GC, n=4) to characterize the effect on maternal steroid and prostaglandin levels and to identify immediate subsequent changes in placental morphology and gene expression as compared with untreated controls sampled on day 272 (group D272, n=3) and cows during normal parturition (group NT, n=4). All calves of the treatment groups were born on days 271–272, whereas gestational length in NT cows was 280.5±1.3 days. However, none of the treatments significantly induced the prepartal remodeling of placentomes characterized by a decline in trophoblast giant cells and reduction of the caruncular epithelium. Data on placental CYP17 and COX2 expression confirm that these key enzymes are upregulated by GC, whereas placental aromatase expression was not affected by any treatment. Maternal progesterone and prostaglandin profiles suggest differential effects of the treatments on luteal function and placental or uterine prostaglandin production. The results provide new information on the initiation of parturition in cattle but raise many new questions.
Sima Shenavai, Bernd Hoffmann, Marc Dilly, Christiane Pfarrer, Gözde R Özalp, Caglar Caliskan, Kamil Seyrek-Intas and Gerhard Schuler
In late pregnant cows, progesterone (P4) is mainly of luteal origin. However, the trophoblast may provide high local P4 concentrations in the uterus. To test for the importance of a complete P4 withdrawal for parturition-related processes and placental release, the P4 receptor (PGR) blocker aglepristone (Ap) was administered to three cows on days 270 and 271 of pregnancy. A complete opening of the cervix was observed 46.5±7.3 h after the start of treatment. However, expulsion of the calves was impaired obviously because of insufficient myometrial activity, and placental membranes were retained for at least 10 days. Measurement of P4 concentrations indicated that PGR blockage induced luteolysis. To investigate the role of P4 withdrawal for the prepartal tissue remodeling of the placentomes, the caruncular epithelium was evaluated by morphometry, and the percentage of trophoblast giant cells (TGCs) relative to the total number of trophoblast cells were assessed. Caruncular epithelium in Ap-treated cows (D272+Ap) was immature (30.5±3.3%) and not different from untreated controls (elected cesarean section (CS) on day 272; D272-CS; 31.5±1.4%), whereas it was significantly reduced at normal term (D280.5±1.3; 21.0±6.1%; P=0.011). Correspondingly, the percentage of TGCs were 20.1±1.4 in D272+Ap, 22.1±4.8 in D272-CS, and 9.8±3.9 at term (P=0.001). No effect was detected on placental estrogen synthesis. The results showed that in late pregnant cows, P4 withdrawal only induces a limited spectrum of the processes related to normal parturition and is not a crucial factor for the prepartal tissue remodeling in placentomes and the timely release of the placenta.