Neonatal Estrogen Exposure Disrupts Uterine Development in the Postnatal Sheep

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Postnatal development of the ovine uterus between birth and postnatal day (PND) 56 involves budding differentiation of the endometrial glandular epithelium from the luminal epithelium (LE) followed by extensive coiling and branching morphogenesis of the tubular glands. To determine the short- and long-term effects of estrogen on neonatal ovine uterine development after PND 14, neonatal sheep were randomly assigned at birth (PND 0) to be treated daily with estradiol-17β benzoate (EB; 0, 0.01, 0.1, 1, or 10 μg/kg body weight·d) during one of two developmental periods (PND 14-27 or 42-55). All ewes were hemiovariohysterectomized at the end of EB treatment on either PND 28 or 56, and the remaining uterine horn and ovary removed on PND 112. Immediate responses to EB treatment included dose- and age-dependent increases in uterine wet weight, thickness of the endometrium, myometrium, and LE, but decreases in endometrial glands on PND 28 and 56. Transient exposure to EB decreased gland number and thickness of the endometrium and LE on PND 112 but did not affect extrauterine reproductive tract structures. The mechanism of estrogen inhibition of uterine development did not involve effects on cell proliferation. Real-time PCR analyses found that EB exposure disrupted normal patterns of growth factor (IGF-I, IGF-II, fibroblast growth factor-7, fibroblast growth factor-10, and hepatocyte growth factor) and receptor mRNA expression in the uterus. Transient exposure of the neonatal ewe to estrogens during critical periods specifically alters growth factor networks that perturb normal development of the uterus, leading to permanent alterations in uterine structure and function.

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