Introduction Placental function impacts growth and development with lifelong consequences for performance and health. We provide novel insights into placental development in bovine, an important agricultural species and biomedical model. Methods Concepti with defined genetics and sex were recovered from nulliparous dams managed under standardized conditions to study placental gross morphological and histomorphological parameters at the late embryo (Day48) and early accelerated fetal growth (Day153) stages. Results Placentome number increased 3-fold between Day48 and Day153. Placental barrier thickness was thinner, and volume of placental components, and surface areas and densities were higher at Day153 than Day48. We confirmed two placentome types, flat and convex. At Day48, there were more convex than flat placentomes, and convex placentomes had a lower proportion of maternal connective tissue (P < 0.01). However, this was reversed at Day153, where convex placentomes were lower in number and had greater volume of placental components (P < 0.01- P < 0.001) and greater surface area (P < 0.001) than flat placentomes. Importantly, embryo (r = 0.50) and fetal (r = 0.30) weight correlated with total number of convex but not flat placentomes. Discussion Extensive remodelling of the placenta increases capacity for nutrient exchange to support rapidly increasing embryo-fetal weight from Day48 to Day153. The cellular composition of convex placentomes, and exclusive relationships between convex placentome number and embryo-fetal weight, provide strong evidence for these placentomes as drivers of prenatal growth. The difference in proportion of maternal connective tissue between placentome types at Day48 suggests that this tissue plays a role in determining placentome shape, further highlighting the importance of early placental development.
- Gross morphology