Mechanisms involved in the generation of spontaneous uterine contractions are not fully understood. Kit-expressing interstitial cells of Cajal are pacemakers of contractile rhythm in other visceral organs, and recent studies describe a role for Ca2+- activated Cl- currents as the initiating conductance in these cells. The existence and role of similar specialized pacemaker cells in the nonpregnant uterus remains undetermined. Spontaneous contractility patterns were characterized throughout the estrous cycle in isolated, nonpregnant mouse uteri using spatiotemporal mapping and tension recordings. During proestrus, estrus, and diestrus, contraction origin predominated in the oviduct end of the uterus, suggesting the existence of a dominant pacemaker site. Propagation speed of contractions during estrus and diestrus were significantly slower than in proestrus and metestrus. Five major patterns of activity were predominantly exhibited in particular stages: quiescent (diestrus), high-frequency phasic (proestrus), low-frequency phasic (estrus), multivariant (metestrus), and complex. Kit-immunopositive cells reminiscent of pacemaking ICCs were not consistently observed within the uterus. Niflumic acid (10 μM), anthracene-9- carboxylic acid (0.1-1 mM), and 5-nitro-2-(3-phenylpropylamino) benzoic acid (10 lμM) each reduced the frequency of spontaneous contractions, suggesting involvement of Cl- channels in generating spontaneous uterine motor activity. It is unlikely that this conductance is generated by the Ca2+-activated Cl- channels, anoctamin-1 and CLCA4, as immunohistochemical labeling did not reveal protein expression within muscle or pacemaker cell networks. In summary, these results suggest that spontaneous uterine contractions may be generated by a Kit-negative pacemaker cell type or uterine myocytes, likely involving the activity of a yet-unidentified Cl- channel.
- Calcium-activated chloride channel
- Estrous cycle
- Niflumic acid
- Nonpregnant myometrium
- Spatiotemporal maps