Placental contribution to the endocrinology of gestation and parturition
In addition to many other functions, the placenta is a source of a vast number of autocrine, paracrine and endocrine factors. However, the spectrum of placental regulatory factors, their concentrations, gestational profiles and roles may differ considerably even between phylogenetically closely related species. Depending on the species, placental regulatory factors of a broad range of molecule classes have been found including (glyco-)proteins, peptides, steroids and prostaglandins. Local placental regulatory factors are especially important for the dialogue between the fetal and the maternal compartment immediately at the feto-maternal borderline and for the control of growth, differentiation and functions of the placenta itself. Moreover, placental hormones in a proper sense may also have effects in more remote targets within the maternal compartment, serving functions such as pregnancy-specific adaptations of maternal circulation, provision of hemotrophe to the fetus or the development and function of the mammary gland. Functions of placental hormones in the fetus proper are less clear but may be especially important before the establishment of a functional fetal endocrine system and near term within the highly species-specific networks of signals preparing and initiating parturition. This review takes a comparative view on the situation in different domestic animals focusing on ruminants and on placental hormones occurring at significant concentrations in the maternal circulation.
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