Placental Development and Expression of Calcium Transporting Proteins in the Extraembryonic Membranes of a Placentotrophic Lizard

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Pseudemoia pagenstecheri is a viviparous Australian scincid lizard in which the maternal-embryonic placental interface is differentiated into structurally distinct regions. The chorioallantoic placenta contains an elliptical-shaped region, the placentome, characterized by hypertrophied uterine and embryonic epithelial cells supported by dense vascular networks. The remainder of the chorioallantoic placenta, the paraplacentome, is also highly vascularized but uterine and chorionic epithelia are thin. An omphaloplacenta with hypertrophied epithelia is located in the abembryonic hemisphere of the egg. There is extensive placental transport of organic and inorganic nutrients, e.g., 85-90% of neonatal calcium is received via placental transfer. Calcium uptake by extraembryonic membranes of squamates correlates with expression of the intracellular calcium binding protein, calbindin-D 28K, and plasma membrane calcium ATPase (PMCA) is a marker for active calcium transport. We estimated expression of calbindin-D 28K and PMCA in the chorioallantoic membrane in a developmental series of embryos using immunoblotting and used immunohistochemistry to define the cellular localization of calbindin-D 28K to test the hypotheses that 1) expression of calcium transporting proteins is coincident with placental transport of calcium and 2) the placenta is functionally specialized for calcium transport in regions of structural differentiation. Calbindin-D 28K and PMCA were detected at low levels in early stages of development and increased significantly prior to birth, when embryonic calcium uptake peaks. These data support the hypothesis that placental calcium secretion occurs over an extended interval of gestation, with increasing activity as embryonic demand escalates in late development. In addition, calbindin-D 28K expression is localized in chorionic epithelial cells of the placentome and in the epithelium of the omphalopleure of the omphaloplacenta, which supports the hypothesis that regional structural differentiation in the placenta reflects functional specializations for calcium transport.