Ovine uterine gland knock-out model: Effects of gland ablation on the estrous cycle

C. Allison Gray, Frank F. Bartol, Kristin M. Taylor, Anne A. Wiley, W. Shawn Ramsey, Troy L. Ott, Fuller W. Bazer, Thomas E. Spencer

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112 Scopus citations


Ovine endometrial gland development is a postnatal event that can be inhibited epigenetically by chronic exposure of ewe lambs to asynthetic progestin from birth to puberty. As adults, these neonatally progestin- treated ewes lack endometrial glands and display a uterine gland knockout (UGKO) phenotype that is useful as a: model for study of endometrial function. Here, objectives were to determine: 1) length of progestin exposure necessary from birth to produce the UGKO phenotype in ewes; 2) if UGKO ewes display normal estrous cycles; and 3) if UGKO ewes could establish and/or maintain pregnancy. Ewe lambs (n = 22) received a Norgestomet (Nor) implant at birth and every two weeks thereafter for 8 (Group I), 16 (Group II), or 32 (Groups III and IV) weeks. Control ewe lambs (n = 13) received no Nor treatment (Groups V and VI). Ewes in Groups I, II, III, and VI were hemihysterectomized (Hhx) at 16 weeks of age. After puberty, the remaining uterine horn in Hhx ewes was removed on either Day 9 or 15 of the estrous cycle (Day 0 = estrus). Histological analyses of uteri indicated that progestin exposure for 8, 16, or 32 weeks prevented endometrial adenogenesis and produced the UGKO phenotype in adult ewes. Three endometrial phenotypes were consistently observed in Nortreated ewes: 1) no glands, 2) slight glandular invaginations into the stroma, and 3) limited numbers of cyst- or gland-like structures in the stroma. Overall patterns of uterine progesterone, estrogen, and oxytocin receptor expression were not different in uteri from adult cyclic control and UGKO ewes. However, receptor expression was variegated in the ruffled luminal epithelium of uteri from UGKO ewes. Intact UGKO ewes displayed altered estrous cycles with interestrous intervals of 17 to 43 days, and they responded to exogenous prostaglandin F(2 proportional to) (PGF) with luteolysis and behavioral estrus. During the estrous cycle, plasma concentrations of progesterone in intact control and UGKO ewes were not different during metestrus and diestrus, but levels did not decline in many UGKO ewes during late diestrus. Peak peripheral plasma concentrations of PGF metabolite, in response to an oxytocin challenge on Day 15, were threefold lower in UGKO compared to control ewes. Intact UGKO ewes bred repeatedly to intact rams did not display evidence of pregnancy based on results of ultrasound. Collectively, results indicate that 1) transient, progestin-induced disruption of ovine uterine development from birth alters both structural and functional integrity of the adult endometrium; 2) normal adult endometrial integrity, including uterine glands, is required to insure a luteolytic pattern of PGF production; and 3) the UGKO phenotype, characterized by the absence of endometrial glands and a compact, disorganized endometrial stroma, limits or inhibits the capacity of uterine tissues to support the establishment and/or maintenance of pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)448-456
Number of pages9
JournalBiology of reproduction
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Cell Biology


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