The persistence of active smooth muscle in the female rat cervix through pregnancy

Published:August 06, 2014DOI:


      A controversy exists as to whether functional smooth muscle exists in the cervix before and during pregnancy, potentially continuous with the uterus. We hypothesized that cervical smooth muscle persists through pregnancy and is functional.

      Study Design

      Uteri and cervices were taken from female virgin, 11 day, and 20 day (near labor) pregnant rats. All experiments used the uterus as a positive control. Three different smooth muscle proteins (smooth muscle α-actin, SM-22α, and calponin-1) allowed immunohistochemical detection of the continuous nature of the smooth muscle from the vagina, cervix, and uterus. Tissues were also hung in isolated tissue baths for the measurement of isometric smooth muscle contraction. Uterine and cervical homogenates were also used in Western analyses to measure protein expression.


      Immunohistochemistry revealed there to be smooth muscle as validated by an expression of all 3 markers in the cervix. This smooth muscle was continuous with that of the vagina and uterus. Smooth muscle α-actin was detected in virgin tissue (291.3 ± 32.2 arbitrary densitometry units/β-actin), day 11 (416.8 ± 19.5), and day 20 pregnant tissue (293.0 ± 34.4). The virgin, day 11, and day 20 cervices contracted 2.18 ± 0.24 g, 1.46 ± 0.08 g, and 3.88 ± 0.49 g (respectively) to depolarizing KCl. Cervices contracted at day 20 to the cholinergic muscarinic agonist carbamylcholine (maximum, 133% ± 18.2% KCl contraction, n = 4).


      These findings strongly support that smooth muscle is present in the cervix through pregnancy and continuous with the uterus.

      Key words

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