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P. A. Rutherford and R. F. Searle

Summary. Female cell-mediated immunity to allogeneic spermatozoa after repeated natural insemination, in the absence of pregnancy, was compared with that after systemic challenge using the cell-mediated microcytotoxicity test to measure cytotoxic cell alloreactivity. After multiple (3–6) inseminations the majority of females (11 out of 13) showed a significant degree of lymphocytotoxicity to male-strain histocompatibility alloantigens in the para-aortic lymph nodes, and to a lesser extent in the spleens, while a single insemination was usually not sufficient to evoke a specific cytotoxic cell response. This differed from the low and highly variable degree of female sensitization after multiple systemic challenge with allogeneic spermatozoa via the intraperitoneal route. By contrast, a single systemic challenge via the footpad proved to be the most highly consistent and effective route for eliciting cell-mediated immunity to male-strain histocompatibility alloantigens in all 9 female mice. This alloreactivity appeared to be directed at alloantigens other than the male-specific H—Y antigen. These findings show that the precise route of immunization is a major factor in the development of female cell-mediated immune responsiveness to allogeneic spermatozoa.

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S. C. Bell and R. F. Searle

Summary. Mouse uterine cells were obtained by trypsinization of uteri at timed intervals after the induction of a decidual reaction by intraluminal instillation of arachis oil on Day 4 of normal pregnancy. Cells were also obtained from ovariectomized mouse uteri, some of which had received a progesterone–oestradiol sequence to sensitize the uterus to a decidual stimulus. The differentiation of decidual cells was followed in cultures of these cells. The morphology of the cells obtained after 6 days in culture was dependent upon the seeding density employed. At low seeding density (plating densities of 75–100 cells/mm2) no net increase in cell number was observed, but large mononucleated stellate cells were present, with cytoplasmic and nuclear areas increased by 4-fold. At higher seeding densities (plating densities of up to 709 cells/mm2), a prolongation of cell survival and the appearance of substantial numbers of binucleated cells were observed. However, both cell types were characterized by the accumulation of filamentous material in the cytoplasm. Even at optimal seeding density the life-span of the decidualized cells could not be prolonged beyond 9 days. Uterine cells from hormone-treated ovariectomized animals underwent similar transformations but those from untreated ovariectomized mice gave only isolated islets of epithelial cells and scattered fibroblast-like cells in culture. These observations suggest that discrepancies in previous reports of in-vitro decidualization of rat uterine cells result from differences in the seeding densities employed.

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H A Otun, B A Innes, G E Lash, B Schiessl, E Ball, R F Searle, S C Robson, and J N Bulmer

Uterine spiral arteries undergo remodelling in normal pregnancy, with replacement of the musculoelastic arterial media by fibrinoid containing extravillous trophoblast cells. Deficient spiral artery remodelling is associated with several adverse pregnancy outcomes. Although there are distinct components of spiral artery remodelling, assessment is subjective and often based on an overall impression of morphology. We aimed to develop a quantitative approach for assessment of uterine spiral artery remodelling. Placental bed biopsies were immunostained using smooth muscle markers, digital images of spiral arteries were captured and Adobe Photoshop was used to analyse positive immunostaining. The method was then used to investigate variation in the same vessel at different levels within a paraffin block, and the effect of parity, pre-eclampsia or miscarriage on vascular smooth muscle cell content. Results were also compared with a more subjective morphology-based assessment system. There was good intra- and interobserver agreement and the method correlated well with the more subjective assessment system. There was an overall reduction in vascular smooth muscle, as detected by caldesmon 1 (h-caldesmon) immunopositivity, with increasing gestational age from 8 weeks to term. A previous pregnancy did not affect the amount of spiral artery smooth muscle. Comparison of pre-eclampsia and late miscarriage samples with controls of the appropriate gestational age demonstrated increased medial smooth muscle in pathological samples. This technique provides a simple, rapid, reproducible and inexpensive approach to quantitative assessment of spiral artery remodelling in normal and pathological human pregnancy, a process which although fundamental for successful pregnancy, is still incompletely understood.