Royal Society Publishing


Immunocytochemical confocal laser scanning microscopy and ultrastructural analysis, including immunoelectron microscopy, reveals the distribution of structures in human term amniochorion similar in some respects to basement membranes but with unusually restricted dimensions. On the basis of their immunoreactivity, these trabecular structures, found on the fibroblast layer side of the spongy layer of human term amniochorion and adjacent reticular layer, have been shown to contain type IV collagen, laminin, and nidogen. The origin of these components may be from primitive epithelial structures which pumped fluid into the lakes that eventually coalesced to form the extraembryonic coelom separating the extraembryonic somatic mesoderm from the extraembryonic splanchnic mesoderm. Such a theory of their origin might link them with the mysterious 'cellular layer', a single-cell-thick layer of cells which is usually no longer present in fetal membranes at term. The similarity in composition but not in size of these structures to anchoring plaques for type VII collagen is possible support for the view that these structures are integrators of extracellular matrix polymeric proteins. The 'pseudobasement' membrane associated with the trophoblast layer, on investigation, appears to be typical by six criteria. 'Coiled' fibrous structures in the extracellular matrix of the spongy layer may aid adjustments under tension at this shear surface by a detachable 'Velcro' or 'two spring' fastening system. The coils are rich in fibronectin. The suggestion is made that the compact layer is a giant lamina reticularis associated with the amniotic epithelial basement membrane.

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