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Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1978 Nov 15;132(6):611-9.

Electrical and mechanical activity of rat uterus in vivo during the estrous cycle.


Electromyograms were obtained from three different locations on the uterus of conscious, unrestrained rats during the 4 day estrous cycle. Intrauterine pressure changes were monitored simultaneously by means of indwelling intraluminal balloons (vol. 0.02 to 0.05 ml.). Electrical activity consisted of bursts of action potentials that were usually initiated at either end of the uterus. Propagated burst activity gave rise to cyclic intrauterine pressure changes, whereas bursts appearing at one electrode only did not elicit any measurable contractions. The rate of intrauterine pressure development depended on the propagation velocity, whereas the tension achieved was related to the duration of burst activity. All three parameters of electrical activity studied, namely, the duration and frequency of spike bursts, as well as their rate of propagation, varied significantly during the cycle. Regional differences were also subject to cyclic variations; thus, in proestrus the bursts originated predominantly at the cervical end, whereas in diestrus they were usually initiated at the ovarian end. Oxytocin stimulated the frequency and duration of bursts along the whole uterus and elicited corresponding changes in intrauterine pressure. Response to oxytocin was dose dependent and modified by cycle stage. Norepinephrine caused a transient prolongation of burst activity that was not dose dependent; epinephrine had a marked dose-dependent inhibitory action. The response to catecholamines did not vary significantly during the cycle. The variations in electrical and mechanical activity were characteristic for each stage of the ovarian cycle and could be correlated with the well-known hormonal changes. High circulating estrogen levels in proestrus are associated with infrequent but rapidly propagated spike bursts, whereas low levels in estrus are associated with frequent and sometimes nonpropaged bursts. The rise in plasma estrogen in diestrus coincides with a decrease in the frequency of burst activity, and the elevated progesterone levels are probably causally related to the significant drop in propagation velocity and the increase in duration of bursts observed in diestrus. These findings are consistent with the concept that estrogen withdrawal activates the estrogen-primed, quiescent myometrium, and that progesterone has an effect similar to that of estrogen withdrawal--at least in the rat.

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