Spontaneous contraction of oviductal smooth muscle is essential for gamete transport to the fertilization site in mammals. This study sheds light on the mechanism of elevated contraction amplitude in the bovine oviductal isthmus just before ovulation.
Rhythmic contraction of the oviducts is essential for transporting gametes and embryos at peri-ovulation; however, its regulatory mechanism during the estrous cycle is unclear. Meanwhile, it is reported that ion currents regulate muscle contraction. Our study aimed to clarify the involvement of ion channels and gap junctions in regulating oviductal motility during the estrous cycle in cattle. The isthmic sections of bovine oviducts collected just after ovulation (0–4 days after ovulation), at the mid-late luteal stage (10–17 days), and at the follicular stage (1–3 days before ovulation) were used in the experiments. The frequency and amplitude of contraction of the oviductal strips in the longitudinal direction were examined using the Magnus system. The frequency was not different among the estrous stages. Conversely, the amplitude was significantly higher at the follicular stage. The blockers of voltage-dependent calcium channels, both IP3 receptor and ryanodine receptors, chloride channel, and gap junction reduced the amplitude. Additionally, mRNA and protein expression of GJA1, a component of the gap junction, in the smooth muscle tissues of the oviductal isthmus were significantly higher in the follicular stage. In addition, estradiol-17β (E2; 1.0 ng/mL) significantly increased GJA1 mRNA expression in cultured smooth muscle tissues after 24 h and GJA1 protein expression in cultured smooth muscle cells after 48 h. These results suggest that local levels of E2 in the oviductal isthmus ipsilateral to an ovary with a dominant follicle support the increased contraction amplitude of bovine ipsilateral oviducts by elevating the gap junction expression.