The aim of this study was to analyze the function and expression of tachykinins, tachykinin receptors, and neprilysin (NEP) in the mouse uterus. A previous study showed that the uterotonic effects of substance P (SP), neurokinin A (NKA), and neurokinin B (NKB) in estrogen-treated mice were mainly mediated by the tachykinin NK1 receptor. In the present work, further contractility studies were undertaken to determine the nature of the receptors mediating responses to tachykinins in uteri of late pregnant mice. Endpoint and real-time quantitative RT-PCR were used to analyze the expression of the genes that encode the tachykinins SP/NKA, NKB, and hemokinin-1 (HK-1) (Tac1, Tac2, and Tac4); and the genes that encode tachykinin NK1 (Tacr1), NK2 (Tacr2), and NK3 (Tacr3) receptors in uteri from pregnant and nonpregnant mice. The data show that the mRNAs of tachykinins (particularly NKB and HK-1), tachykinin receptors, and NEP are locally expressed in the mouse uterus, and their expression changes during the estrous cycle and during pregnancy. The tachykinin NK1 receptor is the predominant tachykinin receptor in the nonpregnant and early pregnant mouse and may mediate tachykinin-induced uterine contractions in the nonpregnant mouse. The tachykinin NK2 receptor is predominant in the late pregnant mouse and is the main receptor mediating uterotonic responses to tachykinins at late pregnancy. The tachykinin NK3 receptor is expressed in considerable amounts only in uteri from nonpregnant diestrous animals, and its physiological significance remains to be clarified.
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