We have studied some passive electrical properties of uterine smooth muscle to determine whether a change in electrical parameters accompanies gap junction formation at delivery. The length constant of the longitudinal myometrium increased from 2.6 +/- 0.8 mm (X +/- SD) before term to 3.7 +/- 1 mm in tissues from delivering animals. The basis of the change was a 33% decrease in internal resistance and a 46% increase in membrane resistance. Axial current flow in an electrical syncytium such as myometrium is impeded by the cytoplasm of individual cells plus the junctions between cells. Measurement of the longitudinal impedance indicated that the specific resistance of the myoplasmic component was constant at 319 +/- 113 omega . cm before term and 340 +/- 93 omega . cm at delivery. However, a decrease in junctional resistance was apparent from 323 +/- 161 omega . cm to 134 +/- 64 omega . cm at delivery. 1.5-2 d after delivery, the junctional resistance was increased, as was the myoplasmic resistance. Thin-section electron microscopy of some of the same muscle samples showed that gap junctions were present in significantly greater numbers in the delivering tissues. Therefore, our results support the hypothesis that gap junction formation at delivery is associated with improved electrical coupling of uterine smooth muscle.

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