Prostaglandins, produced from membrane phospholipids by the action of phospholipase A2, cyclooxygenase, and specific prostaglandin synthases, are important regulators of ovulation, luteolysis, implantation, and parturition in reproductive tissues. Destruction of the corpus luteum at the end of the estrous cycle in nonpregnant animals is brought about by the pulsatile secretion of prostaglandin F2α (PGF2α) from the endometrium. It has been known for many years that progesterone, estradiol, and oxytocin are the hormones responsible for luteolysis. To achieve luteolysis, two independent processes have to be coordinated; the first is an increase in the prostaglandin synthetic capability of the endometrium and the second is an increase in oxytocin receptor number. Although progesterone and estradiol can modulate the expression of the enzymes involved in prostaglandin synthesis, the primary reason for the initiation of luteolysis is the increase in oxytocin receptor on the endometrial epithelial cells. Results of many in vivo studies have shown that progesterone and estradiol are required for luteolysis, but it is still not fully understood exactly how these steroid hormones act. The purpose of this article is to review the recent data related to how progesterone and estradiol could regulate (initiate and then turn off) the uterine pulsatile secretion of PGF2α observed at luteolysis.
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