Summary. Binding of [3H]oxytocin to uterine subcellular preparations ('oxytocin receptor concentrations') was measured in uterine tissue of heifers and multiparous dairy cows at various stages of the oestrous cycle and during early pregnancy. A method for the assay of ovine uterine oxytocin receptors was optimized for use on bovine tissue. Oxytocin receptor concentrations were increased in cyclic animals around the period of luteolysis and oestrus, rising on Day 15 in endometrium and on Day 17 in myometrium while pregnant animals showed no comparable rise. Receptor concentrations then declined on Day 3 after oestrus in myometrium and on Day 5 in endometrium. Some cyclic animals did not show the expected rise in receptors in the late luteal phase; these animals had abnormally high progesterone concentrations for this stage of the cycle. In animals slaughtered on Day 18 after oestrus and/or insemination which had low oxytocin receptor levels, plasma progesterone concentrations were consistently high; while all animals showing the late luteal phase elevation in receptor values had low progesterone concentrations. Oxytocin receptor and progesterone concentrations were negatively correlated (P < 0·05). These data support the hypothesis that oxytocin receptor level is a key factor in the process of luteolysis in cattle and that in pregnancy there is suppression of uterine oxytocin receptor at the expected time of luteolysis. We suggest that uterine oxytocin receptor levels are partly controlled by circulating steroid hormones and are suppressed during early pregnancy.
Keywords: uterus; oxytocin; receptors; cattle; oestrous cycle; pregnancy