Problem The oxytocin (OT)–oxytocin receptor (OTR) system plays an important role in mammalian parturition. However, we found OTR-deficient (OTRKO) mice are fertile and deliver at term without birth defects, thus alternative pathways inducing parturition can be hypothesized.
Methods of study We tested the gene expression profile of OTRKO mice using suppressive subtractive hybridization, and focused on the calcineurin/nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT) pathway. We examined the expression and localization of this pathway in mouse parturition.
Results Calcineurin and NFATc1 were detected in the decidua of pregnant uteri at term using immunohistochemistry (IHC). We identified higher activation levels of NFATc1 in wild type (WT) than in OTRKO mice and increased calcineurin A and NFATc1 mRNA levels during pregnancy. Moreover, injection of FK506, the inhibitor of this pathway, prolonged the delivery of the first pup.
Conclusion Our findings suggested that the calcineurin/NFAT pathway might play a substantial role in initiation of labor.