Estrous changes in vaginal nociception in a rat model of endometriosis

Horm Behav. 2003 Aug;44(2):123-31. doi: 10.1016/s0018-506x(03)00121-1.


A rat model of endometriosis, in which pieces of uterine horn (versus fat in controls) are autotransplanted into the abdomen where they form cysts, reduces fecundity and produces vaginal hyperalgesia. The cysts gradually enlarge over a 2-month period postsurgically and then plateau. Cysts regress with low estrogen levels and reappear when they rise. Based on the hypothesis that the vaginal hyperalgesia depends upon the cysts, this study tested two predictions: that (1) the hyperalgesia would develop postsurgically in parallel with the cysts, and (2) the hyperalgesia would vary with estrous, being greatest when estrogen levels are high (proestrus) and least when low (estrus). In rats trained to escape vaginal distention, percentage escape responses to different distention volumes were measured across the rat's 4-day estrous cycle for 2.5 months before and up to 4 months after autotransplantation of uterus (n=9) or fat (n=6) in abdominal sites. Vaginal pressures were also measured. In rats with uterine but not fat autotransplants, escape percentages increased postsurgically over a 2-month period and then plateaued. The increase was greatest in proestrus and failed to occur in estrus. Vaginal pressures were unchanged in all groups. These results strongly support the hypothesis that the vaginal hyperalgesia depends upon the cysts. Because the cysts were located in sites remote from the vagina, the hyperalgesia involves viscero-visceral interactions and is likely centrally mediated, whereas the estrous modulation could involve hormonal actions either on the cysts or, more likely, on vaginal afferent fibers, and/or on central neurons.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / transplantation
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Cysts / physiopathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dyspareunia / physiopathology
  • Endometriosis / physiopathology*
  • Escape Reaction
  • Estrogens / blood
  • Estrous Cycle / blood*
  • Female
  • Hyperalgesia / physiopathology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Uterus / physiopathology*
  • Uterus / transplantation
  • Vagina / physiopathology*


  • Estrogens