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  • Author: S. E. F. Guldenaar x
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V. J. Ayad, S. E. F. Guldenaar and D. C. Wathes


Some of the binding characteristics of a novel oxytocin receptor ligand 125I-labelled [1-(β-mercapto-β, β-cyclopentamethylene propionic acid), 2-(ortho-methyl)-Tyr2,Thr4,Orn8,Tyr9-NH2]-vasotocin ([125I]OTA) have been determined in the sheep uterus. The compound was subsequently used for the autoradiographic localization of oxytocin receptors in the uterus and oviduct of the ewe.

Specific binding of [125I]OTA to crude membrane fractions of ovine endometrium was time-dependent and was unaffected by the addition of cations to incubation media. Endometrial membranes contained a single population of saturable, high-affinity binding sites for the iodinated ligand (dissociation constant (K d) 0·23±0·08 nmol/l) and unlabelled oxytocin competed with [125I]OTA for binding sites with high affinity (K d 1·29±0·4 nmol/l) in the presence of Mg2+ In contrast, unlabelled OTA was able to compete with high affinity (K d 1·13±0·16 nmol/l) in the absence of cation. Competition studies with a number of oxytocin analogues and related peptides and the tissue distribution of [125I]OTA binding sites also indicated that [125I]OTA bound to the ovine oxytocin receptor. This was further validated by autoradiographic studies which showed specific labelling with [125I]OTA to be greater to uterus and oviduct obtained from ewes which had been killed within 2 days of oestrus than to similar tissue from ewes killed during the luteal phase. In both the ampullary and isthmic regions of the oviduct and the myometrium, [125I]OTA binding sites were confined to smooth muscle. Endometrial binding sites for [125I]OTA were consistently located on the luminal epithelium and epithelial cells lining secretory glands. In addition, in one ewe which had been killed 2 days after cloprostenol treatment, stromal cells were labelled in a caruncular region of the endometrium. The consistency of this observation between similar animals remains to be determined.

The autoradiographic technique demonstrated appears sufficiently sensitive to allow further studies into the distribution of the endometrial oxytocin receptor throughout the oestrous cycle, and into its regulation at luteolysis and during the establishment of pregnancy.

Journal of Endocrinology (1991) 128, 187–195

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H. D. Nicholson, R. T. S. Worley, S. E. F. Guldenaar and B. T. Pickering


An oxytocin-like peptide is present in the interstitial cells of the testis, and testicular concentrations of oxytocin have been shown to increase seminiferous tubule movements in vitro. We have used the drug ethan-1,2-dimethanesulphonate (EDS), which depletes the Leydig cell population of the adult rat testis, to examine further the relationships between the Leydig cell, testicular oxytocin and tubular movements. Adult rats were injected i.p. with a single dose of EDS (75 mg/kg) or of vehicle (25% dimethyl sulphoxide). Histological study 3 and 10 days after treatment with EDS showed a reduction in the number of interstitial cells, and levels of oxytocin immunoreactivity were undetectable by radioimmunoassay. Immunostaining revealed very few oxytocin-reactive cells. Spontaneous contractile activity of the seminiferous tubules in vitro was also dramatically reduced, but could be restored by the addition of oxytocin to the medium. Four weeks after EDS treatment, the interstitial cells were similar to those in the control animals both in number and in immunostaining; immunoassayable oxytocin was present and tubular movements were normal. The EDS effect, seen at 3 and 10 days, was not altered by daily treatment with testosterone. However, repopulation of the testes with oxytocin-immunoreactive cells was not seen until 6 weeks in the testosterone-treated animals.

We suggest that the Leydig cells are the main source of oxytocin immunoreactivity in the testis and that this oxytocin is involved in modulating seminiferous tubule movements and the resultant sperm transport. The results also imply that testosterone does not play a major role in controlling tubular activity in the mature rat.

J. Endocr. (1987) 112, 311–316

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H. D. Nicholson, S. E. F. Guldenaar, G. J. Boer and B. T. Pickering


The long-term effects of oxytocin administration on the testis were studied using intratesticular implants. Adult male rats had an Accurel device containing 20 μg oxytocin (releasing approximately 200 ng/day) implanted into the parenchyma of each testis; control animals received empty devices. The animals were killed at weekly intervals for 4 weeks. Some animals were perfused and the testes processed for light and electron microscopy. Blood was collected from the remaining animals for the measurement of testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, LH, FSH and oxytocin; epididymal sperm counts were measured and the testes were extracted and radioimmunoassayed for testosterone, dihydrotestosterone and oxytocin.

Long-term administration of oxytocin resulted in a significant reduction in testicular and plasma testosterone levels throughout the 4-week period examined and, after 14 days of treatment, lipid droplets were seen in the Leydig cells of treated but not control animals. Concentrations of dihydrotestosterone in the plasma and testes of the oxytocin-treated animals, however, were significantly elevated after 7 and 14 days and at no time fell below control values. Plasma FSH levels were also lower in the oxytocin-treated animals. Intratesticular oxytocin treatment did not affect LH or oxytocin concentrations in the plasma, epididymal sperm counts or the number of Leydig cells in the testis. Empty Accurel devices had no effect on testicular morphology.

This study provides the first evidence that oxytocin in vivo can modify steroidogenesis in the testis.

Journal of Endocrinology (1991) 130, 231–238