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Lymphatics in the human endometrium disappear during decidualization

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Gendie Lash, Professor Steve RobsonORCiD, Dr Judith Bulmer


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The mammalian placenta plays a central role in maternal tolerance of the semi-allogeneic fetus and fluid balance between the maternal and fetal compartments. The lymphatics play a role in both these function. The aim of this study was to describe the distribution of lymphatic vessels in human decidua, with particular focus on the lymphatics that surround remodelling spiral arteries during decidualization and trophoblast invasion. Placental bed and non-placental bed (decidua parietalis) biopsies were obtained from 41 women undergoing elective termination of pregnancy at 6-18 weeks gestational age as well as placental bed biopsies from 5 women undergoing elective Caesarean section at term. In addition to routine haematoxylin and eosin staining, double immunohistochemical labelling was performed on serial 3-mu m sections to identify lymphatic vessels in conjunction with one of the following: blood vessels, smooth muscle, epithelial and trophoblast cells or proliferating cells. Representative photomicrographs of all sections were obtained from a total of 273 areas (46 samples, average 6 range 3-15 areas per sample). Descriptive findings of the organization of lymphatics in human placental bed and decidua parietalis were made from a total of 1638 images. Lymphatic vessels positive for podoplanin were abundant in non-decidualized hypersecretory endometrium at all stages of gestation. By contrast, the decidua was nearly always devoid of lymphatics. In some samples, structures that appeared to be regressing lymphatics could be observed at the boundary between non-decidualized hypersecretory and decidualized endometrium. Lymphatic vessels were notably absent from the vicinity of spiral arteries that were surrounded by decidualized stromal cells. Lymphatic vessels in non-decidualized hypersecretory endometrium appeared larger and more elongated as gestation progressed. Proliferating lymphatic vascular endothelial cells were identified in both large vessels, and in streaks of D2-40 positive cells that could have been newly forming lymphatic vessels. Placental bed lymphatics exhibited limited and variable staining with LYVE-1 at all stages of pregnancy apart from term. We have made novel observations on lymphatics in the placental bed and their relationship with other structures throughout pregnancy. Endometrial stromal cell decidualization results in a loss of lymphatics, with this phenomenon being particularly apparent around the spiral arteries.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Volchek M, Girling JE, Lash GE, Cann L, Kumar B, Robson SC, Bulmer JN, Rogers PAW

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Human Reproduction

Year: 2010

Volume: 25

Issue: 10

Pages: 2455-2464

Print publication date: 21/08/2010

ISSN (print): 0268-1161

ISSN (electronic): 1460-2350

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/humrep/deq224


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Funder referenceFunder name
Victorian Cancer Biobank
143805National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (NHMRC)
384195National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (NHMRC)