3-D ultrastructural distribution of collagen in human placental villi at term in relation to vascular tree

Enrico Vizza, Silvia Correr, Fabrizio Barberini, Rosemarie Heyn, Serena Bianchi, Guido Macchiarelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In order to understand the 3-D distribution of collagen in relation to vascularization, chorionic villi of human placentae, belonging to normal pregnancies at term, were studied by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) after alkali maceration techniques, and by transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The villous tree appeared made of an uninterrupted structure of collagen fibres. The collagen fibres connected the chorionic villi axis with their basal plates and organised differently according to the various levels of villous branching. The collagen of stem villi showed copious fibres. The external fibres (facing the villous surface) were arranged mainly longitudinally. The central core of the villi (inner fibres) were arranged concentrically around the wall of the fetal vessels. Both external and internal fibres formed stratified lamellae or small parallel bundles. The inner core of stem villi showed small holes housing capillary spaces. Mature intermediate and terminal villi showed a scarce amount of collagen arranged in thin concentric layer within the villous core, surrounding numerous dilated capillary and sinusoid spaces.These observations demonstrated that the extracellular matrix of human chorionic villi is highly compartmentalised and shows a variable structural 3-D distribution depending on the branching level of the villous tree, such a distribution ensures the most favourable microenvironment for feto-maternal exchanges and it is likely able to provide a modulated support to the developing chorionic fetal vessels and trophoblastic layer as well.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-443
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Reproduction and Development
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2005


  • Angiogenesis
  • Chorionic villi
  • Collagen
  • Extracellular matrix
  • Human
  • Placenta

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Reproductive Medicine


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