16 - Fertile soil or no man's land: cooperation and conflict in the placental bed  pp. 165-173

Fertile soil or no man's land: cooperation and conflict in the placental bed

By David Haig

Image View Previous Chapter Next Chapter



Introduction

In 1910, Gräfenberg wrote that ideas about relations between the human ovum and ovum bed [Eibett] had undergone a dramatic change during the previous decade. The ovum was no longer viewed as a passive object around which maternal tissues spread a protective cover. Far from being a helpless germ in need of protection, the ovum was a cheeky intruder [ein frecher Eindringling] that eats its way deep into the uterine mucosa. A popular comparison had been of the villi sinking into the endometrium as the roots of a tree sink into the earth, but Gräfenberg saw a hint of antagonism between the roots of the ovum and the surrounding soil. In his opinion, various structural and enzymatic features of the decidua were defensive reactions against the destructive ovum [1]. (I have translated the German Ei (egg) as ovum, the term used in the contemporary English literature. We would now call the ‘ovum’ an embryo.)

Grosser took a contrary view. Gräfenberg should not have taken Roux's ‘struggle of parts within the organism’ quite so literally. The primary function of the decidua was obvious; to act as a fertile soil [Nährboden] for supporting growth of the ovum. Toward this end, trophoblast and decidua formed an effective mutually coordinated, or better preservational, system in which one partner could not attack the other, nor the other defend itself, in opposition to what was imperative for the survival of the species [2: 289–290]. (Nährboden can be translated as fertile soil or as culture medium.

Arey L B . Placentation, fetal membranes and deciduae. In: Curtis A H , ed. Obstetrics and gynecology. Philadelphia: WB Saunders; 1933: pp. 442–76.
Bonnet M . Ueber Syncytien, Plasmodien und Symplasma in der Placenta der Säugetiere und des Menschen. Monatsschr Gerburtsh Gynäk 1903; 18: 1–51.
Bryce T H , Teacher J H , Kerr J M M . Contributions to the study of the early development and imbedding of the human ovum. II. An early ovarian pregnancy. Glasgow: J MacLehose; 1908.
Caffier P . Die proteolytische Fähigkeit von Ei und Eibett. (Experimentelle Studien mit Chorion und Decidua). Zentralb Gynäk 1929; 53: 2410–25.
Caffier P . Zur Biologie von Ei und Eibett. Klin Wochenschr 1932; 11: 1089–92.
Fothergill W E . The function of the decidual cell. Edinburgh Med J 1899; 5: 265–73.
Frassi L . Ueber ein junges menschliches Ei in situ. Arch mikroskop Anat Entwicklungsg 1907; 70: 492–505.
Gräfenberg E . Beiträge zur Physiologie der Eieinbettung. Z Geburtsh Gynäk 1910; 65: 1–35.
Grosser O . Frühentwicklung Eihautbildung und Placentation des Menschen und der Säugetiere. München: JF Bergmann; 1927.
Grosser O . The development of the egg membranes and the placenta; menstruation. In: Keibel F , Mall F P , eds. Manual of human embryology, Volume 1. Philadelphia: JB Lippincott; 1910; pp. 91–179.
Haig D . Altercation of generations: genetic conflicts of pregnancy. Amer J Reprod Immunol 1996; 35: 226–32.
Haig D . Brood reduction and optimal parental investment when offspring differ in quality. Amer Nat 1990; 136: 550–6.
Haig D . Evolutionary conflicts in pregnancy and calcium metabolism: a review. Placenta 2004; 25 (Suppl A): S10-S15.
Haig D . Genetic conflicts in human pregnancy. Q Rev Biol 1993; 68: 495–532.
Haig D . Genetic conflicts of pregnancy and childhood. In: Stearns S C , ed. Evolution in health and disease. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 1999: pp. 77–90.
Haig D . Gestational drive and the green-bearded placenta. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 1996; 93: 6547–51.
Haig D . Placental hormones, genomic imprinting, and maternal-fetal communication. J Evol Biol 1996; 9: 357–80.
Haig D . Putting up resistance: maternal-fetal conflict over the control of uteroplacental blood flow. In: Aird W C , ed. Endothelial biomedicine. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2007: pp. 135–41.
Hamilton W D . The moulding of senescence by natural selection. J Theor Biol 1966; 12: 12–45.
Hastings I M . Models of human genetic disease: how biased are the standard formulae? Genet Res 2000; 75: 107–114.
Henke A , Gromoll J . New insights into the evolution of chorionic gonadotropin. Mol Cell Endocrinol 2008; 291: 11–19.
Hicks J B . The anatomy of the human placenta. Trans Obstet Soc London 1873; 14: 149–207.
Hobson W C , Graham C E , Rowell T J . National Chimpanzee Breeding Program: Primate Research Institute. Amer J Primatol 1991; 24: 257–63.
Hrdy S B . Mother nature. New York: Pantheon; 1999.
Hunter J . Observations on certain parts of the animal oeconomy. London; 1786.
Johnstone R W . Contribution to the study of the early human ovum. J Obstet Gynaecol Brit Emp 1914; 25: 231–76.
Kleine H O . Zur Systematik der Pathologie der sog. Durchdringungszone. Arch Gynäk 1931; 145: 459–73.
Kozlowski J , Stearns S C . Hypotheses for the production of excess zygotes: models of bet-hedging and selective abortion. Evolution 1989; 43: 1369–77.
Kuehl T J , Kang I S , Siler-Khodr T M . Pregnancy and early reproductive failure in the baboon. Amer J Primatol 1992; 28: 41–8.
Licht P , Fluhr H , Neuwinger J et al. Is human chorionic gonadotropin directly involved in the regulation of human implantation? Mol Cell Endocrinol 2007; 269: 85–92.
Linzenmeier G . Ein junges menschliches Ei in situ. Arch Gynäk 1914; 102: 1–17.
Madge H M . On the anatomical relations between the mother and fœtus. Trans Obstet Soc London 1867; 8: 348–60.
Marchand F . Ueber das maligne Chorion-Epitheliom, nebst Mittheilung von 2 neuen Fällen. Z Geburtsh Gynäk 1898; 49: 173–258.
Marchand F . Ueber die sogenannten “decidualen” Geschwülste im Anschluss an normale Geburt, Abort, Blasenmole und Extrauterinschwangerschaft. Monatsschr Gerburtsh Gynäk 1895; 1: 419–438, 513–561.
McLaren A . Maternal factors in nidation. In: Park W W , ed. The early conceptus, normal and abnormal. St. Andrews: University of St. Andrews; 1965: pp. 27–33.
Mossman H W . Comparative morphogenesis of the fetal membranes and accessory uterine structures. Contrib Embryol 1937; 26: 129–246.
Mossman H W . Vertebrate fetal membranes. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press; 1987.
Peters H . Ueber die Einbettung des menschlichen Eies und das früheste bisher bekannte menschliche Placentationsstadium. Leipzig: F Deutike; 1899.
Polano O . Ueber Verschwinden einer Schwangerschaft. Ein Beitrag zur Lehre von der Blasenmole. Z Geburtsh Gynäk 1907; 59: 453–66.
Reid J . On the anatomical relations of the blood-vessels of the mother to those of the fœtus in the human species. Edinburgh Med Surg J 1841; 55: 1–12.
Ridley M . Mendel's demon. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson; 2000.
Ritter F . Ueber Deciduazellen und ihre Bedeutung. Beitr Geburtsh Gynäk 1910; 15: 226–41.
Robertson W B , Warner B . The ultrastructure of the human placental bed. J Pathol 1974; 112: 203–11.
Small M F . Reproductive failure in macaques. Amer J Primatol 1982; 2: 137–47.
Smith W T . The decidua, chorion, placenta, and umbilical cord. Lancet 1856; 1: 171–5.
Strassmann B I . The evolution of endometrial cycles and menstruation. Q Rev Biol 1996; 71: 181–220.
Teacher J H . On chorionepithelioma and the occurrence of chorionepitheliomatous and hydatidiform mole-like structures in teratomata. J Obstet Gynæcol Brit Emp 1903; 4: 1–64, 145–199.
Trivers R L . Parent-offspring conflict. Amer Zool 1974; 14: 249–64.
Trivers R L. Parental investment and sexual selection. In: Campbell B , ed. Sexual selection and the descent of man, 1871–1971. Chicago: Aldine Publishing; 1972: pp. 136–79.
Ulezko-Stroganova K . Zur Frage von dem feinsten Bau des Deciduagewebes, seiner Histogenese, Bedeutung und dem Orte seiner Entwickelung im Genitalapparat der Frau. Arch Gynaek 1908; 86: 542–63.
Wilcox A J , Weinberg C R , O'Connor J F et al. Incidence of early loss of pregnancy. New Engl J Med 1988; 319: 189–94.
Wislocki G B . On the placentation of primates, with a consideration of the phylogeny of the placenta. Contrib Embryol 1929; 20: 51–80.