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J Reprod Dev. 2007 Aug;53(4):923-30. Epub 2007 Mar 14.

Apoptosis in the porcine uterine endometrium during the estrous cycle, early pregnancy and post partum.

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Reproductive Biology and Technology Research Team, National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Sciences, Ibaraki, Japan.


The mammalian uterus changes dramatically during the estrous cycle, pregnancy, and involution post partum. Dynamic changes in the uterine endometrium are a type of homeostasis and proceed with proliferation and exclusion of cells. Homeostasis of the uterus is closely related to apoptosis involving various hormones and cytokines. The objective of the present study was to determine the morphological features and occurrence of apoptosis in the porcine endometrium during the estrous cycle, early pregnancy, and post partum. Cyclic changes in the morphology of the surface epithelium were observed during the estrous cycle. The heights of surface epithelia were significantly high on day 4 of the estrous cycle and the early pregnancy. The heights of the surface epithelium remained low from days 1 to 31 post partum. We then used terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated biotinylated deoxyuridine triphosphate nick end-labeling (TUNEL) of the 3'-terminal of fragmented DNA, which is effective for detection of apoptosis in various tissues. We found that apoptosis in the porcine endometrium contributed to homeostasis of the endometrium during the estrous cycle through control of cell proliferation and exclusion. Conversely, apoptosis on days 4 and 8 of gestation before the implantation window depended on the plasma estrogen and progesterone levels; however, suppressive homeostasis of apoptosis occurred at the time of implantation on days 15, 18 and 21 of gestation. Our study is the first to demonstrate apoptotic cell death in the porcine endometrium directly by TUNEL method. The results strongly suggest that uterine homeostasis is mainly controlled by apoptosis during the estrous cycle and early pregnancy.

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