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Tissue Cell. 1985;17(1):53-68.

Ultrastructure of cyclic changes in the murine uterus, cervix, and vagina.


The regional and cyclic changes in the murine genital epithelium were studied by transmission and scanning electron microscopy to provide a morphological standard to serve as a basis for investigation of host-parasite relationships in genital infections. Thus, we examined not only mucosal epithelial cell changes, but also surface mucus, normal flora and inflammatory cells. Ultrastructurally, at proestrus/estrus, we found uterine and most cervical epithelial cells covered with microvilli overlaid with mucus-like secretions and evidence of internal secretory activity. There was little normal flora anywhere in the tract. At early metestrus, we found squamous cervicovaginal epithelial cells with low discontinuous microrugae, extensive normal flora and many neutrophils beginning to migrate through the epithelium. The flora and neutrophils could explain the relative lack of susceptibility to infection at that time. At diestrus the appearance of a newly regenerated epithelium and lack of normal flora suggested that initiation of infection could occur at this stage; however, the presence of large numbers of neutrophils ready to phagocytize invading bacteria indicated a deterrent to infection. This study of cyclic changes in flora, mucus, neutrophils and epithelial cells provided ultrastructural evidence to support an earlier hypothesis that the greatest susceptibility to gonococcal infection in mice occurred at proestrus/estrus.

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