Our previous finding of appreciable quantities of a gastrin-releasing peptide (GRP)-like immunoreactive (GRPLI) entity in ovine fetal and maternal plasma led us to examine the ovine pregnant uterus as a possible source of this material. At term, intense immunohistochemical staining for GRPLI occurred in the endometrial epithelial cells, and the term ovine uterus also contained abundant GRP messenger RNA (mRNA). In contrast, GRP mRNA was not detected in fetal membranes. GRP mRNA was present in the uterus on gestational day 63; a significant increase in GRP mRNA had occurred by day 100. Thereafter, levels remained elevated until term, but 3 months postpartum, GRP mRNA levels were greatly reduced. As previous studies suggested the GRPLI entity to be of greater molecular size than GRP-(1-27), we deduced the primary structure of ovine uterus GRP by sequencing a complementary DNA clone isolated from a complementary DNA library constructed from term ovine uterus polyadenylated RNA. Ovine uterine GRP is composed of 27 amino acid residues and has a conserved C-terminal region, similar to GRP structures in other species. We conclude that during pregnancy, the ovine uterus produces considerable quantities of GRP, which may play an important but hitherto unrecognized role in utero-placental development and possibly in fetal development after transfer to the fetus.
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