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Reprod Biol. 2002 Jul;2(2):93-114.

Uterine blood supply as a main factor involved in the regulation of the estrous cycle--a new theory.

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  • 1Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research, Polish Academy of Sciences, Olsztyn, Poland.


The paper presents a new theory on the physiological mechanism of initiation of luteolysis, function of endometrial cells and protection of corpus luteum. This theory is based on previous studies published by the authors and their coworkers on the retrograde transfer of PGF2alpha in the uterine broad ligament vasculature during the estrous cycle, early pregnancy and pseudopregnancy. The studies were focused on cyclic changes in uterine blood supply and the apoptosis of endometrial cells. Moreover, the results of many other authors are cited. The statements of the theory are as follows: 1. The initiation of luteolysis is a consequence of regressive changes in the endometrium which are due to the reduction of the uterine blood supply below the level necessary to provide for the extended needs of active endometrium. 2. During the luteal phase, both a considerable increase in uterine weight and a decrease in blood flow through the uterine artery, resulting from increasing progesterone concentration, reduce the uterine blood supply. In comparison to the volume of blood flowing to the porcine uterus during the estrus period, only 30-40% of the blood volume is determined on day 12 of the estrous cycle. The uterine weight at that time is 40-60% larger than that in the early luteal phase. Thus, due to the considerable constriction of uterine blood vessels, there is a discrepancy between the requirement for oxygen and other factors transported by blood and the possibility of supplying the uterus with these substances. After reaching the threshold of uterine blood supply level, which in pigs takes place around day 12 of the estrous cycle, regressive changes and PGF2alpha release from endometrial cells occurs. 3. Estrogens and progesterone are the major factors affecting blood flow in vessels supplying the uterus. The factors that modulate, complement and support vasodilation and vasoconstriction are: PGE2, LH, oxytocin, cytokines, neurotransmitters and other local blood flow regulators. In some animal species these modulators, especially those of embryonic origin, may be crucial for the status of uterine vasculature. 4. During early pregnancy, the action of embryo signals (estrogens, cytokines), endometrial PGE2 as well as LH results in the relaxation of the uterine artery (pigs: day 12) and, consequently, in an increase in uterine blood supply. This reaction of the maternal recognition of pregnancy effectively prevents regressive changes in well developed endometrial cells to occur. 5. Local uptake and retrograde transfer of PGF2alpha into the uterine lumen during early pregnancy protects corpus luteum from PGF2alpha luteolytic action. 6. During the period of regressive changes resulting from the limited uterine blood supply, endometrial cells restrain PGF2alpha synthesis. They are, however, still capable of releasing prostaglandin when uterine blood supply is improved after the embryo appears in the uterus. This potential capability for PGF2alpha synthesis was demonstrated in in vitro studies when endometrial cells collected during its regressive phase were incubated in medium and stimulated by LH and oxytocin. 7. Prostaglandin F2alpha pulses in venous blood flowing from the uterus do not confirm pulsatile secretion of PGF2alpha. The pulses may result from the pulsatile excretion of PGF2alpha with venous blood according to the rhythmic uterine contractions associated with oxytocin secretion. 8. The results supporting this concept are presented and discussed in due course. The critique of Bazer and Thatcher's theory on exocrine versus endocrine secretion of prostaglandin F2alpha during the estrous cycle is also depicted.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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