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K. Kimura and T. A. Uchida

Summary. The placentae of the Japanese long-fingered bat were characterized by their morphological and functional transition from the main placenta to the accessory placentae. The main placenta transformed from an endotheliodichorial to a haemodichorial (one layer of syncytiotrophoblast and one layer of cytotrophoblast cells) condition. Degeneration of the main placenta was accompanied by development of two accessory placentae. These developed on both sides (fetal side) of the main placenta, and subsequently converted from a haemodichorial (two layers of cytotrophoblast cells) to a haemomonochorial condition.

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K. Kimura and T. A. Uchida

Summary. Embryonic development in Japanese long-fingered bats proceeded very slowly during and after the delayed implantation period (mid-October to mid-December). The primitive amniotic cavity and endoderm were formed before implantation. At the preimplantation stage (before hibernation) the corpus luteum cells appeared active, but became less active at the implantation stage (in hibernation). Activity was again apparent at the early placentation stage (after arousal).

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T. A. Uchida, C. Inoue, and K. Kimura

Summary. Gravid female Japanese long-fingered bats were kept in captivity without hibernation at elevated temperatures (23–25°C) in winter. The embryonic growth rate was accelerated and consequently parturition was advanced by a period equivalent to that of exclusion from hibernation as compared with that in the wild population. The corpus luteum became active, as indicated by an increase in the 'light' lutein cells in an experimental bat pregnant with a 15-mm embryo, but was less active (more 'dark' cells) in 2 hibernating control bats with an implanting blastocyst.

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K. Kimura, A. Takeda, and T. A. Uchida

Summary. In the Japanese long-fingered bat, when compared with the baseline values during non-pregnancy in the autumn, plasma progesterone concentrations were not significantly elevated during the delayed implantation stage that begins before the bats enter hibernation. However, progesterone concentrations were significantly lower during the delayed development stage that occurs during hibernation and rose significantly during the rapid embryogenesis that occurs after arousal from hibernation in the spring. Changes in the corpus luteum volume corresponded closely with those of plasma progesterone values. Maintenance of gravid females at 25°C for 2 weeks in winter resulted in significant increases in the plasma progesterone concentration and the corpus luteum volume.

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T Kimura, K Ogita, C Kusui, K Ohashi, C Azuma, and Y Murata

Many molecules, including steroid and peptide hormones, prostaglandins and cytokines, regulate the preparation, initiation and progression of parturition in mammals. Gene targeting studies show that, in the knockout mice of steroid 5alpha-reductase type 1 gene, prostaglandin F2alpha receptor gene and cytosolic phospholipase A2 gene, parturition was severely disturbed, although live offspring were delivered by Caesarean section. Relaxin gene-disrupted mice also showed protracted labour. However, most knockout mice in which the steroid hormone, prostaglandin, cytokine or peptide hormone (for example, oxytocin, corticotrophin releasing hormone and endothelin) endocrine-paracrine systems are disrupted are inadequate for analysis of the mechanism of parturition because they die before reaching reproductive age or are infertile, or because they reproduce normally. A conditional knockout strategy, for example, using the Cre-LoxP system, should be considered for investigating the biochemical background of parturition to overcome these problems.

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M Endo, R Kawahara-Miki, F Cao, K Kimura, T Kuwayama, Y Monji, and H Iwata

Antrum formation and estradiol (E2) secretion are specific features of oocyte and granulosa cell complexes (OGCs). This study investigates the effect of E2 on the in vitro development of bovine OGCs derived from early antral follicles as well as on the expression of genes in granulosa cells (GCs). The supplementation of culture medium with either E2 or androstenedione (A4) improved the in vitro development of OGCs and the nuclear maturation of enclosed oocytes. When OGCs were cultured in medium containing A4, developmentally competent OGCs secreted more E2 than OGCs that were not competent. In addition, fulvestrant inhibited the effect of both E2 and A4 on OGCs development. Comprehensive gene expression analysis using next-generation sequence technology was conducted for the following three types of GCs: i) GCs of OGCs cultured for 4 days with E2 (1 μg/ml; E2(+)), ii) GCs of OGCs cultured for 4 days without E2 (E2(−)) or iii) OGCs that formed clear antrum after 8 days of in vitro culture in medium containing E2 (1 μg/ml; AF group). GCs of the E2(+) group had a similar gene expression profile to the profile reported previously for the in vivo development of large follicles. This genetic profile included factors implicated in the up-regulation of E2 biosynthesis and down-regulation of cytoskeleton and extracellular matrices. In addition, a novel gene expression profile was found in the AF group. In conclusion, E2 impacts the gene expression profile of GCs to support the in vitro development of OGCs.