More than 90 percent of the cells isolated from the mammary gland of lactating rats with 0.1 percent collagenase were viable by dye exclusion. Myoepithelial cells comprised about one-third of the mammary cells and appeared to be morphologically intact in electron micrographs. [(3)H]Oxytocin-binding activity was localized in an enriched myoepitheial cell fraction obtained by density gradient centrifugation of the isolated cells. The amount of [(3)H] oxytocin bound at 20 degree C and pH 7.6 was proportional to the concentration of oxytocin and the number of cells, reaching a steady state by 40 min. About 0.45 fmol of oxytocin were bound per 10(6) cells. There was a single class of independent binding sites with an apparent K(d), estimated from equilibrium conditions, of 5 nM. This value agrees within experimental error with the value calculated from the ratio of reverse to forward rate constants (5.8 x 10(-4)s(-1) and 2.2 x 10(5) M(-1)s(-1), respectively), consistent with a single-step model for the interaction of oxytocin with binding sites on the cells. Erythrocytes bound only 3.5 percent of the amount of oxytocin bound by an equal number of mammary cells. Oxytocin analogues competed with [(3)H]oxytocin for binding sites in the following order: [deamino]oxytocin > [4-threonine]oxytocin > oxytocin > [O- methyltyrosine]oxytocin > [8-lysine]vasopressin; [lysine]-bradykinin and [4-proline]oxytocin were not inhibitory in the dose ranges tested. These results demonstrate that isolated mammary cells possess oxytocin receptors with properties comparable to those found in broken mammary cell preparations.

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