Hypertrophic placenta, or placentomegaly, has been reported in cloned cattle and mouse concepti, although their placentation processes are quite different from each other. It is therefore tempting to assume that common mechanisms underlie the impact of somatic cell cloning on development of the trophoblast cell lineage that gives rise to the greater part of fetal placenta. To characterize the nature of placentomegaly in cloned mouse concepti, we histologically examined term cloned mouse placentas and assessed expression of a number of genes. A prominent morphological abnormality commonly found among all cloned mouse placentas examined was expansion of the spongiotrophoblast layer, with an increased number of glycogen cells and enlarged spongiotrophoblast cells. Enlargement of trophoblast giant cells and disorganization of the labyrinth layer were also seen. Despite the morphological abnormalities, in situ hybridization analysis of spatiotemporally regulated placenta-specific genes did not reveal any drastic disturbances. Although repression of some imprinted genes was found in Northern hybridization analysis, it was concluded that this was mostly due to the reduced proportion of the labyrinth layer in the entire placenta, not to impaired transcriptional activity. Interestingly, however, cloned mouse fetuses appeared to be smaller than those of litter size-matched controls, suggesting that cloned mouse fetuses were under a latent negative effect on their growth, probably because the placentas are not fully functional. Thus, a major cause of placentomegaly is expansion of the spongiotrophoblast layer, which consequently disturbs the architecture of the layers in the placenta and partially damages its function.
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