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Hum Reprod Update. 2010 Nov-Dec;16(6):725-44. doi: 10.1093/humupd/dmq016. Epub 2010 Jun 14.

Physiological pathways and molecular mechanisms regulating uterine contractility.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.



Uterine contractile activity plays an important role in many and varied reproductive functions including sperm and embryo transport, implantation, menstruation, gestation and parturition. Abnormal contractility might underlie common and important disorders such as infertility, implantation failure, dysmenorrhea, endometriosis, spontaneous miscarriage or preterm birth.


A systematic review of the US National Library of Medicine was performed linking 'uterus' or 'uterine myocyte' with 'calcium ion' (Ca(2+)), 'myosin light chain kinase' and 'myosin light chain phosphatase'. This led to many cross-references involving non-uterine myocytes and, where relevant, these data have been incorporated into the following synthesis.


We have grouped the data according to three main components that determine uterine contractility: the contractile apparatus; electrophysiology of the myocyte including excitation-contraction coupling; and regulation of the sensitivity of the contractile apparatus to Ca(2+). We also have included information regarding potential therapeutic methods for regulating uterine contractility.


More research is necessary to understand the mechanisms that generate the frequency, amplitude, duration and direction of propagation of uterine contractile activity. On the basis of current knowledge of the molecular control of uterine myocyte function, there are opportunities for systematic testing of the efficacy of a variety of available potential pharmacological agents and for the development of new agents. Taking advantage of these opportunities could result in an overall improvement in reproductive health.

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