Anatomy and Embryology

, Volume 190, Issue 6, pp 541–548 | Cite as

The extravascular contractile system in the human placenta

Morphological and immunocytochemical investigations
  • R. Graf
  • J.-U. Langer
  • G. Schönfelder
  • T. Öney
  • S. Hartel-Schenk
  • W. Reutter
  • H. H. H. W. Schmidt
Original Articles


In the human placenta, besides the fetal blood vessel system a second extravascular contractile system exists. It is localized in the chorionic plate and runs in a longitudinal direction and adjacent to fetal blood vessels into the stem villi, where it forms perivascular contractile sheaths. Characteristically, cells of the extravascular contractile system are extremely long and spindle-shaped and give rise to fine cell processes, by which they obviously contact each other or insert into the basement membrane of the trophoblast. They show immunoreactivity with desmin, vimentin, α-actin, myosin, nitric oxide synthase type I (brain form) and dipeptidyl peptidase IV. The ultrastructure suggests that cells of the extravascular contractile system are related to smooth muscle cells, including subpopulations with myofibroblastic features. In stem villi a few cells are nitric oxide synthase type I immunoreactive. These cells are thought to be specialized smooth-muscle-like cells of the extravascular contractile system or cells of the extravascular contractile system related to paraneurons that generate nitric oxide, which, in turn, may modulate the tone of perivascular contractile sheaths. The high dipeptidyl peptidase IV activity suggests that modulation of the extravascular contractile system may also occur by substance P.

Key words

Human placenta Smooth muscle-like cells Perivascular contractile sheath Nitric oxide synthase type I Dipeptidyl peptidase IV 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Graf
    • 1
  • J.-U. Langer
    • 1
  • G. Schönfelder
    • 1
  • T. Öney
    • 2
  • S. Hartel-Schenk
    • 3
  • W. Reutter
    • 3
  • H. H. H. W. Schmidt
    • 4
  1. 1.Institut für AnatomieFreie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Frauenklinik und Poliklinik, UK SteglitzFreie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany
  3. 3.Institut für Molekularbiologie und BiochemieFreie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany
  4. 4.Institut für Biochemie und PathobiochemieMedizinische Universität WürzburgWürzburgGermany

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