Article ID: 2015-005
The structure and functions of placentas were examined in 3 species of rorqual whales, common minke (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), Bryde’s (B. brydei) and sei (B. borealis) whales, with the aim of confirming the structural characteristics of the chorion, including the presence of the areolar part, and clarifying steroidogenic activities and fetomaternal interactions in the placentas of these whales. Placentas were collected from the second phase of the Japanese Whale Research Program under Special Permit in the North Pacific (JARPN II). Histological and ultrastructural examinations revealed that these whale placentas were epitheliochorial placentas with the interdigitation of chorionic villi lined by monolayer uninucleate cells (trophoblast cells) and endometrial crypts as well as folded placentation by fold-like chorionic villi. Moreover, well-developed pouch-like areolae were observed in the placentas, and active absorption was suggested in the chorionic epithelial cells of the areolar part (areolar trophoblast cells). Berlin blue staining showed the presence of ferric ions (Fe3+) in the uterine glandular epithelial cells and within the stroma of chorionic villi in the areolar part. An immunohistochemical examination revealed tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP; known as uteroferrin in uteri) in the cytoplasm of glandular cells and areolar trophoblast cells. This result suggested that, in cetaceans, uteroferrin is used to supply iron to the fetus. Furthermore, immunoreactivity for P450scc and P450arom was detected in trophoblast cells, but not in areolar trophoblast cells, suggesting that trophoblast cells synthesize estrogen in whale placentas. Therefore, we herein immunohistochemically revealed the localization of aromatase and uteroferrin in cetacean placentas during pregnancy for the first time.