Nonapeptides and their receptors regulate a diverse range of physiological processes. We assessed the contractile responsiveness of uteri from the squamate viviparous-oviparous species pair, Pseudemoia entrecasteauxii and Lampropholis guichenoti, as well as the bimodally reproductive species, Saiphos equalis, to arginine vasopressin (AVP). We assessed the resulting uterine contractility as a function of pregnancy status, species and parity mode. We also measured mRNA abundance for the nonapeptide receptor, oxytocin receptor (oxtr), in uteri from P. entrecasteauxii and L. guichenoti and compared expression across pregnancy status and parity mode. We found that pregnant uteri exhibited a significantly greater contractile response to AVP than non-pregnant uteri in all three lizard species studied. Cross-species comparisons revealed that uteri from viviparous P. entrecasteauxii were significantly more responsive to AVP than uteri from oviparous L. guichenoti during both pregnant and non-pregnant states. Conversely, for non-pregnant S. equalis, uteri from viviparous individuals were significantly less responsive to AVP than uteri from oviparous individuals, while during pregnancy, there was no difference in AVP contractile responsiveness. There was no difference in expression of oxtr between L. guichenoti and P. entrecasteauxii, or between pregnant and non-pregnant individuals within each species. We found no significant correlation between oxtr expression and AVP contractile responsiveness. These findings indicate that there are differences in nonapeptide signalling across parity mode and suggest that in these lizards, labour may be triggered either by an increase in plasma nonapeptide concentration, or by an increase in expression of a different nonapeptide receptor from the vasopressin-like receptor family.
Keywords: Contraction; Nonapeptide; Parity mode; Pregnancy; Receptors; Squamates.