The present study was designed to determine the localization of the endometrial oxytocin receptor during the ovine oestrous cycle, particularly on day 14, the time of initiation of luteal regression in the ewe. Samples were obtained from 29 ewes at different stages of the oestrous cycle (several during the luteal phase and on every day between day 14 (− 2) and day + 3 of the oestrous period).
Oxytocin receptors were localized autoradiographically in sections of uterine tissue, using the 125I-labelled oxytocin receptor antagonist [1-(β-mercapto-β,β-cyclopentamethylene propionic acid), 2-(ortho-methyl)-Tyr2,Thr4,Orn8,Tyr9-NH2]-vasotocin (125I-labelled OTA). There was some variation in the pattern of 125I-labelled OTA labelling between different uterine tissue samples from the same ewe and also between samples obtained from different ewes thought to be at the same stage of the oestrous cycle. A clear overall pattern did, however, emerge with 125I-labelled OTA-binding sites distributed between luminal epithelial cells, glandular epithelial cells and caruncular stromal cells to varying extents on different days of the cycle.
During the luteal phase (days 5–12) clear specific labelling of endometrial tissue was generally absent. On day 14 labelling was evident on the luminal epithelium, but only in nine tissue samples out of a total of 18 studied, indicating that the entire luminal surface did not contain oxytocin receptors at this time. Between the day before oestrus and day 3 of the oestrous cycle the luminal epithelium was consistently labelled. The most extensive labelling of the remaining endometrial tissue was observed on the day of oestrus, with 125I-labelled OTA-binding sites clearly present on the stromal cells within caruncles and on a large proportion of secretory epithelia. This contrasted with the day before and the day after oestrus when labelling of glandular tissue was confined to the superficial endometrium, and labelling of caruncular stromal cells, although sometimes evident, was never as intense as on day 0. On days 2 and 3 labelling varied between being similar to that found on day 1 and being confined to the luminal epithelium and very few superficial secretory glands.
The results of this study lead us to conclude that the oxytocin receptor shows a differential distribution between stromal cells, epithelial cells lining secretory glands and luminal epithelial cells during the oestrous cycle; that the steroidal regulation of the oxytocin receptor differs between endometrial cell types; and that control of the luminal epithelial oxytocin receptors is probably of particular importance to the regulation of prostaglandin F2α release at luteal regression and during the maternal recognition of pregnancy.
Journal of Endocrinology (1991) 130, 199–206