Innervation and gap junction formation in the myometrium of pregnant little brown bats,Myotis lucifugus
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Pregnant Myotis lucifugus were captured in mist nets set outside a large maternity colony and, in most cases, were examined 12-15 hours later. Anterior and posterior halves of uteri were pinned to dental wax and either incubated in glyoxylic acid to produce adrenergic nerve fluorescence, or fixed in buffered glutaraldehyde for electron microscopy. Blood was collected for radioimmunoassay of plasma progesterone. We found no evidence of decreased nerve fluorescence even in late pregnancy when plasma progesterone levels were 10-20 times preovulatory values. Ultrastructural examination also showed no evidence of damage to, or destruction of, nerves in the myometrium. However, we did find gap junctions between myometrial muscle cells during the periparturient period in both normal and aborting bats. Gap junctions began to form several days before term, increased in number until parturition, then decreased dramatically within a day or two thereafter. The percentage of muscle cell plasma membrane involved in gap junction formation was closely correlated with plasma progesterone levels, although whether this is causal or coincidental is not certain. These data do not agree with the conclusions drawn from observations in other mammals that a disappearance of adrenergic nerves from the myometrium is associated with the initiation of parturition, or that gap junction formation is associated with changes in nerve function. They do, however, lend further support to the hypothesis that there is neurogenic control of myometrial contractility in M. lucifugus uteri at term.
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