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Reprod Fertil Dev. 2003;15(5):269-74.

Steroid hormones augment nitric oxide synthase activity and expression in rat uterus.

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Center of Pharmacological and Botanical Studies (CEFYBO), Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), Serrano, Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina.


Nitric oxide (NO) is synthesized in a variety of tissues, including rat uterus, from L-arginine by NO synthase (NOS), of which there are three isoforms, namely neuronal, endothelial and inducible NOS (nNOS, eNOS and iNOS, respectively). Nitric oxide is an important regulator of the biology and physiology of the organs of the reproductive system, including the uterus. Some studies have shown increased variation in NO production and NOS expression during the oestrous cycle. However, the factors that regulate NO production in the uterus remain unclear. Therefore, in the present study, we investigated the effect of sex steroids on NOS expression and activity in the ovariectomized rat uterus. Ovariectomized rats received progesterone (4 mg per rat) or 17beta-oestradiol (1 microg per rat). All rats were killed 18 h after treatment. Both progesterone and oestradiol were able to augment NOS activity. The effect of oestradiol was abolished by pre-incubation with 500 micro M aminoguanidine, an iNOS inhibitor, or by coadministration of oestradiol with 3 mg kg(-1) dexamethasone, but the effect of progesterone was not affected by these treatments. Uterine nNOS, eNOS and iNOS protein levels were assessed using Western blots. Ovariectomized rat uteri expressed iNOS and eNOS. Progesterone increased the expression of eNOS and iNOS, whereas oestradiol increased iNOS expression only. These results suggest that oestradiol and progesterone are involved in the regulation of NOS expression and activity during pregnancy and implantation in the rat.

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