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Biol Reprod. 2012 Mar 8;86(3):63. doi: 10.1095/biolreprod.111.097188. Print 2012 Mar.

Brief exposure to progesterone during a critical neonatal window prevents uterine gland formation in mice.

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  • 1Department of Physiological Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32610, USA.


Uterine gland development (adenogenesis) in mice begins on Postnatal Day (PND) 5 and is completed in adulthood. Adenogenesis depends on estrogen receptor 1, and progesterone (P4) inhibits mitogenic effects of estrogen on uterine epithelium. This progestin-induced effect has been used to inhibit uterine gland development; progestin treatment of ewes for 8 wk from birth has produced infertile adults lacking uterine glands. The goals of the present study were to determine if a window of susceptibility to P4-mediated inhibition of uterine gland development exists in mice and whether early P4 treatment abolishes adenogenesis and fertility. Mice were injected daily with P4 (40 μg/g) or vehicle during various postnatal windows. Adenogenesis, cell proliferation, and expression of key morphoregulatory transcripts and proteins were examined in uteri at PNDs 10 and 20. Additionally, adenogenesis was assessed in isolated uterine epithelium. Treatment during PNDs 3-9, 5-9, or 3-7 abolished adenogenesis at PND 10, whereas treatments during PNDs 3-5 and 7-9 did not. Critically, mice treated during PNDs 3-9 lacked glands in adulthood, indicating that adenogenesis did not resume after this treatment. However, glands were present by PND 20 and later following treatment during PNDs 5-9 or 3-7, whereas treatment during PNDs 10-16 produced partial inhibition of adenogenesis at PND 20 and later. Epithelial proliferation at PND 10 was low following P4 treatment (PNDs 3-9) but exceeded that in controls at PND 20, indicating a rebound of epithelial proliferation following treatment. Messenger RNA for Wnt, Fzd, and Hox genes was altered by neonatal P4 treatment. All groups cycled during adulthood. Mice treated with P4 during PNDs 3-9, but not during other developmental windows, showed minimal fertility in adulthood. In summary, brief P4 treatment (7 days) during a critical neonatal window (PNDs 3-9) transiently inhibited epithelial proliferation but totally and permanently blocked adenogenesis and adult fertility. This resulted in permanent loss of uterine glands and, essentially, total infertility during adulthood. The narrow window for inhibition of adenogenesis identified here may have implications for development of this methodology as a contraceptive strategy for animals.

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