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Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1983 Feb 15;145(4):389-96.

Circadian patterns and dexamethasone-induced changes in uterine activity in pregnant rhesus monkeys.


Five monkeys with amniotic pressure catheters were placed in restraining chairs on days 127 to 131 of gestation (term = 167 days) for examination of circadian patterns in uterine activity. Uterine activity (total area under the contraction curve) was recorded continuously for 3- to 9-day intervals while the animals were exposed to a 16-hour:8-hour light:dark photoperiod. A ratio of hourly contraction area to mean hourly contraction area was established for each individual, and a circadian pattern was observed, with the occurrence of peak uterine activity between 2200 and 0200 hours (analysis of variance, P less than 0.01). An unrestrained animal equipped with a telemetry device and monitored for 23 days demonstrated a similar pattern. Four other catheterized, chair-restrained, pregnant monkeys were used to examine the effects of dexamethasone on uterine activity rhythms. After a 48-hour control period, dexamethasone (0.1 mg/hr) was infused via a maternal venous catheter for 48 hours. Fetal and maternal estrone and estradiol levels and total uterine activity were significantly reduced during dexamethasone infusion (P less than 0.05). In the 48 hours after dexamethasone infusion, mean uterine activity returned to preinfusion levels but the nocturnal peak remained ablated. Therefore, dexamethasone, alters the magnitude, as well as the circadian pattern, of uterine activity in association with reduced estrogen biosynthesis by the fetoplacental unit. Since the effect on uterine activity is biphasic, dexamethasone probably acts by more than one mechanism.

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