Attachment of the blastocyst and formation of the placenta during pregnancy is dependent on structural and cellular changes occurring in the uterine epithelium and in particular to the plasma membrane of these uterine cells. Desmosome expression decreases during pregnancy in eutherians and some squamates, presumably allowing for remodeling of the uterine epithelium and invasion of the trophoblast during implantation. Marsupials are a distinct mammalian amniote lineage of viviparity, with a short implantation or attachment period and varying levels of invasive placentation. To test the generality of changes to the uterine epithelium during pregnancy across mammals, we characterized the distribution of desmosomes in the uterine epithelial cells of a marsupial, Sminthopsis crassicaudata, using electron microscopy and immunohistochemistry. The absolute number of desmosomes along the lateral plasma membrane decreases during pregnancy and desmosomes are redistributed towards the apical region of the lateral plasma membrane as pregnancy proceeds, similar to what occurs during pregnancy in eutherian mammals. Despite the lower level of maternal investment in pregnancy and the noninvasive structure of fetal membranes in marsupials there are similarities in number and redistribution of desmosomes along the plasma membrane and changes to the morphology of the uterine epithelial cells suggesting that similar plasma membrane changes occur across all lineages of amniote vertebrates.
- Sminthopsis crassicaudata