Summary. Immunohistochemistry was utilized to determine expression of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) antigens on Day 8–9 hatched blastocysts and fetal membranes of mid- to late gestation cows and to examine the pattern of leucocytic infiltration into the gravid uterus. Hatched blastocysts were weakly positive for MHC class I antigens. In the mature placenta, chorioallantoic membranes in the interplacentomal area showed positive immunostaining for class I antigens on the chorionic epithelium but had no staining for class II antigens. There was an accumulation of lymphoid cells expressing class II antigens directly beneath the luminal epithelium of the endometrium. In addition, cells staining for leucocyte common antigen were present both within and beneath the luminal epithelium. Some cells positive for class II and leucocyte common antigen (CD45) were also associated with uterine glands. In the placentomes, class I antigens were expressed only on maternal caruncular septa. Fetal cotyledonary villi had no detectable immunostaining for class I and II antigens. No distinct pattern of leucocyte infiltration in the maternal caruncular tissue was observed; the caruncular septa contained some cells that were labelled for CD45 and a few class II-positive cells around blood vessels. The results indicate that the fetal placenta of the cow expresses MHC class I antigens in a regionally defined manner and there is a differential accumulation of lymphoid cells in the uterus.
Keywords: placenta; cow; major histocompatibility complex antigens; uterus; leucocyte