Immunocytochemistry was used to detect the presence of oestrogen and progesterone receptors in the cervices of prepubertal lambs, seasonally anoestrous ewes, cyclic ewes, and pregnant ewes of known gestational stages, to define the roles of gonadal steroids in cervical function. The presence of the immediate early gene product, c-Fos, a marker for cellular activation, was also investigated using immunocytochemistry and in situ hybridization. Oestrogen receptor immunoreactivity was restricted to the endometrium on days 0–3 of the oestrous cycle (day 0 = oestrus). In immature animals, very few scattered nuclei in the endometrium were immunoreactive. Oestrogen receptor immunoreactivity was not apparent in the endometrium during the remainder of the oestrous cycle or in this region in anoestrous animals. In pregnant ewes, oestrogen receptor immunostaining appeared as relatively few isolated nuclei in the connective tissue stroma. Progesterone receptor immunoreactivity was found in the endometrium at days 0–3 of the oestrous cycle and also in the luminal epithelium, the myometrium and the blood vessels. Progesterone receptor immunoreactivity was also found in these regions, with the exception of the endometrium, at all other stages examined. Immunostaining for c-Fos was present in the endometrium at days 0–3 of the oestrous cycle, and some scattered immunopositive nuclei were present in prepubertal animals. c-Fos immunoreactivity was also found in the myometrium and in blood vessels at all other stages examined. Visualization of c-fos gene expression by in situ hybridization showed that it occurred in the luminal epithelium and blood vessels at oestrus, but was restricted to the blood vessels in all other samples examined.
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