There is inconclusive evidence that oxytocin acts directly on the corpus luteum and affects steroidogenesis. Since any such action would probably be mediated by oxytocin receptors, these should be present in luteal tissue. In this study, homogenates of corpora lutea from both pregnant and non-pregnant ewes were examined for oxytocin receptors by radio-receptor assay. Specific oxytocin binding was not observed in luteal tissue during the oestrous cycle. However specific binding was found in the corpora lutea of pregnant ewes; appearing at a fetal head length of approximately 0·65 cm (about 30 days of pregnancy) and persisting to a head size of 11 cm, the largest size examined in this study. The affinity (K d) of the receptor was calculated as 2·9 ± 0·3 nmol/l (s.e.m.; n = 9), a value similar to that obtained for the uterus. The receptor number ranged from a low of 8·7± 3·2 fmol/mg protein (n = 6) at a head size of <0·65 cm, to a maximum of 40·1 ± 6·5 fmol/mg protein (n = 25) at a head size of 2·5–3·75 cm. These values were lower than our estimate of 588 ± 39 fmol/mg protein (n = 5) for the uterus. It is concluded that a direct action of oxytocin on the corpus luteum is possible but only after the first month of pregnancy and not in the corpus luteum of the oestrous cycle.
Journal of Endocrinology (1989) 121, 117–123