• Rat vaginal epithelial cells;
  • Estrous cycle;
  • Microprobe analysis;
  • Element distribution;
  • Keratinization


Microprobe analysis of vaginal epithelial cells shed during the estrous cycle of the rat was done to determine cellular elements present in successive stages: pro-estrus, estrus, and post-estrus. Smears of vaginal contents were placed on carbon planchettes, fixed by freeze-drying, and examined in a scanning microscope with an energy dispersive spectrometer. Concentrations of Na, Mg, P, S, Cl, K, and Ca were calculated (mmol/kg dry weight) and analyzed statistically. For phosphorus a significant fall at estrus correlates with a loss of nuclear and cytoplasmic nucleic acids and nucleoproteins. An increase in sulfur at estrus is consistent with an accumulation of keratins over pro-estrus and a greater increase over the post-estrus epithelial cells. The epithelial cells of pro-estrus are highest in Mg and Ca. By post-estrus, the cells have recovered their Mg, not Ca. Potassium concentrations exhibited no significant change between the successive stages.