The fine structure of the estrogen-primed uterus was examined in two series of rats, with emphasis upon the alterations in smooth muscle cells and fibroblasts. The first series of animals were mature animals that were sacrificed at diestrus or estrus. The second series consisted of prepubertal rats (57–70 g) that received subcutaneous injections of estradiol-17 ß in 20% alcohol. Four groups of animals received the hormone twice daily for 3 days for a total dose of 0.06, 0.6, 6.0, or 60.0 µg, respectively. An estrogenic response was observed in all groups as indicated by an increase in uterine weight. Control groups consisted of either untreated animals or animals receiving 20% alcohol. All animals were sacrificed on the 4th day. The fibroblasts and smooth muscle cells in the controls were similar to their counterparts in the mature animal in diestrus. They were small, contained relatively little rough endoplasmic reticulum, and the connective tissue cells appeared like fibrocytes. All of the estrogen-treated animals were similar in appearance and were comparable to their counterparts in the mature animal in estrus. Both the smooth muscle cells and the fibroblasts were increased in size, demonstrated a marked enlargement and dilation of ergastoplasmic cisternae, and contained increased numbers of attached and free cytoplasmic ribosomes. The presence of an extensive rough endoplasmic reticulum in the smooth muscle cells of the stimulated uterus is in marked contrast to the appearance of these cells in other tissues. These observations correlate with previous biochemical studies by other workers, in which estrogens have been shown to promote the synthesis of uterine RNA, collagen, and noncollagenous protein, and suggest that smooth muscle cells may participate in the synthesis of connective tissue proteins.

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