Obplacental giant cells of the domestic rabbit: development, morphology, and intermediate filament composition.


Obplacental giant cells are large (less than or equal to 210 microns) polyploid cells that appear in the stroma of the pregnant uterus of the rabbit following ovoimplantation. Histological examination of a complete developmental series indicates that obplacental giant cells arise from trophoblastic knobs that have traversed the uterine epithelium during early implantation. During maturation, the cells undergo a massive (approximately 6,000%) increase in volume and penetrate deeply into the uterine stroma and myometrium, where they often become associated with blood vessels and smooth muscle cells. Giant cells at mid-gestation contain one or two large nuclei with prominent nucleoli and appear to be amitotic. They are rich in Golgi complexes, RER, SER, and cortically distributed cytoplasmic filaments, and contain intracellular canaliculi lined by microvilli. Giant cells vary with respect to the occurrence of lipid droplets, phagocytotic inclusions, lysosomal structures, and electron-dense granules. Immunocytochemistry demonstrates that the giant cells exhibit intermediate filaments related to cytokeratin and vimentin, but are negative for desmin and for an endothelial cell marker, Factor VIII-related antigen. The cells are positive for cytokeratin from their inception, but only become vimentin-positive between Days 12 and 15 of pregnancy, a change seemingly related to their detachment from epithelial tissue to take on an independent existence. Our findings indicate that the giant cells originate from obplacental trophoblast and, at maturity, exhibit cytoskeletal characteristics of isolated epithelial cells, as well as a complement of organelles suggestive of synthetic activity.