Morphometric methodologies were developed and applied to investigate the patterns of vascular development in maternal (caruncular; CAR) and fetal (cotyledonary; COT) sheep placentas throughout the last two thirds of gestation. We also examined the expression levels of the major angiogenic factors and their receptors in CAR and COT sheep placentas. Although the vascularity of the CAR tissues increased continuously from Day 50 through Day 140 of pregnancy, those of the COT tissues increased at about twice the instantaneous rate (i.e., the proportionate increase/day) of the CAR. For CAR, vascularity increased 2-fold from Day 50 through Day 140 via relatively small increases in capillary number and 2- to 3-fold increases in capillary diameter. For COT, the increased vascularity resulted from a 12-fold increase in capillary number associated with a concomitant 2-fold decrease in capillary diameter. This large increase in fetal placental capillary number, which was due to increased branching, resulted in 6-fold increases in total capillary cross-sectional area and total capillary surface, per unit of COT tissue. Different patterns of expression of the mRNAs for angiogenic factors and their receptors were observed for CAR and COT. The dilation-like angiogenesis of CAR was correlated with the expression of vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-1 (FLT1), angiopoietin-2 (ANGPT2), and soluble guanylate cyclase (GUCY1B3) mRNAs. The branching-like angiogenesis of COT was correlated with the expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), FLT1, angiopoietin-1 (ANGPT1), ANGPT2, and FGF2 mRNAs. Monitoring the expression of angiogenic factors and correlating the levels with quantitative measures of vascularity enable one to model angiogenesis in a spatiotemporal fashion.
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Vol. 76 • No. 2