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Morphological, histological and histochemical studies of the gonads of ovine freemartins
  1. K. C. Smith, BVSc, PhD, DSHP, FRCVS1,
  2. T. J. Parkinson, BVSc, DBR, DipECAR, PhD, FRCVS1,
  3. G. R. Pearson, BVMS, PhD, MRCPath, MRCVS2,
  4. L. Sylvester, HND, MPhil3 and
  5. S. E. Long, BVMS, DipECAR, PhD, MRCVS1
  1. 1 Department of Clinical Veterinary Science
  2. 2 Department of Pathology and Microbiology, University of Bristol, Langford House, Langford, Bristol BS40 5DU
  3. 3 Division of Animal Physiology, University of Nottingham, School of Biosciences, Sutton Boniingtoni Campus, Loughborough LE12 5RD
  1. Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences, Massey University, Private Bag 11 -222, Palmerston North, New Zealand
  2. Department of Clinical Veterinary Science


Freemartins are XX/XY chimaeras that develop as a result of the fusion of the placental circulation of at least one male and one female fetus. Of 19 freemartin ewes, 13 had testis-like structures, seven of them in an abdominal position and six in an inguinal position. Histologically, their gonads had structures resembling seminiferous tubules and interstitial cells, and grossly, most had structures derived from the mesonephric ducts (vasa deferentia, epididymides and vesicular glands). The other six freemartin ewes had small, undifferentiated gonads that lacked either follicles or seminiferous tubule-like structures. They also lacked any structures derived from the mesonephric ducts. No derivatives of the paramesonephric ducts were detectable in any of the freemartin ewes. The gonads of the male-type freemartins stained immunocytochemically for 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (3β-HSD) and histochemically for alkaline phosphatase (AP) in a similar way to, but more extensively and intensely than, the gonads of normal rams, and the staining was confined to interstitial cell-like structures. The staining in the undifferentiated-type freemartins was weak, but both 3β-HSD and AP were present in unidentified cell types.

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