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Changes of the oviductal epithelium during estrous in dogs
Littel is known about the morphological changes and proliferative activities in the epithelium of the canine oviduct with regard to the part of the oviduct - possibly indicating the existence of a locally restricted sperm reservoir - and the stage of the oestrous cycle. This new study form Germany offers interesting new insights...

Nine healthy adult nulliparous bitches were submitted to ovariohysterectomy at three stages of the cycle: anoestrus (n = 3), late follicular phase (n = 3) and mid-luteal phase (n = 3).

The whole oviduct ranging from the utero-tubal junction (UTJ) to the infundibulum (IN) was collected, divided into UTJ, IN plus six segments of equal length, i.e. eight oviductal specimens per animal were studied by light microscopy.

Morphological characteristics of ovaries and endometrium were recorded macroscopically and verified histologically. The height of oviduct epithelial cells and percentage of ciliated cells (CC) were assessed and the respective data analysed statistically.
Proliferative activity was immunohistochemically visualized by means of Ki-67 antigen detection.
Blood was collected and concentrations of oestradiol-17 and progesterone (P4) were measured.

Within the IN and five of the six tissue samples collected from the ampulla and isthmus in anoestrous bitches, the oviductal surface epithelium consisted of low cuboidal cells demonstrating a uniform dark staining intensity. Only a very few scattered lighter staining CC could be detected.

Under the influence of oestrogens during late follicular phase, the oviductal epithelium was highly differentiated. Lighter stained CC with apically located nuclei were easily distinguishable from basophilic secretory cells with apical cytoplasmic protrusions. Cell height and percentage of CC were significantly higher than in anoestrus (p 0.05).

During mid-luteal phase, high levels of P4 were associated with differentiated and dedifferentiated cells as well as cells in regression seen in the mucosal folds of all samples. The percentage of CC and cell height were significantly lower than during late follicular phase (p 0.05). Further signs of dedifferentiation consisted of a loss of cilia, a pinching off of the apical cytoplasm as well as the presence of debris and macrophages within the oviductal lumen. In the oviductal part of UTJ and the caudal isthmus hormone-dependent variations in cellular morphology were less distinct.

Changes in cell height were minimal and did not differ significantly throughout the oestrous cycle. Hypertrophic cells with large nuclei were predominantly present at these sites, but did not consistently demonstrate signs of ciliation or secretion. Sporadic proliferating activity, visualized by means of Ki-67 antigen, was mainly seen in some cells of the late follicular phase samples.
Thus, overall proliferative activity is generally very low or may occur within a relatively short period of time. It therefore cannot be excluded, that periods exhibiting higher mitotic rates are not included in the present study.

It should, however, be mentioned that cells demonstrating morphological signs of apoptosis can only be seen very sporadically within a few specimens during mid-luteal phase, thus, reflecting low proliferative capacities and minimal cellular turnover found during this study.

The results of the present study strongly indicate that oestrogens cause hypertrophy and differentiation, whereas P4 induces gradual dedifferentiation or regression of the oviductal epithelium.
Furthermore, they reveal clearly visible changes in the morphology of the tubal epithelium during the oestrous cycle. Depending on the tubal segment, these are, however, variably expressed.

Whether the low degree of cellular variation of the UTJ and caudal isthmus is caused by specific hormone concentrations at these sites or specific regulatory mechanisms and may be associated with specific functional properties such as the formation of a locally restricted sperm reservoir needs further investigations.

Source: Steinhauer, N, Boos, A & Günzel-Apel, A-R (2004): Morphological Changes and Proliferative Activity in the Oviductal Epithelium during Hormonally Defined Stages of the Oestrous Cycle in the Bitch. In: Reproduction in Domestic Animals 39 (2), 110-119.



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