Effects of ovarian steroids on vaginal smears in the rat

Acta Anat (Basel). 1988;133(3):192-9. doi: 10.1159/000146639.


A correspondence between the appearance of vaginal smears and the layers of the epithelium from which the cells had desquamated was established in untreated rats during the estrous cycle, in control ovariectomized rats and in spayed rats injected with either estrogen or progesterone. The technique for preparing and staining the smears (modified Shorr's staining procedure) is outlined. A simplified system of classification which allows the accurate identification of the various stages of the reproductive state in the rat is described. Standing estrus, as well as the influence of estrogen on spayed rats, is characterized by marked cornification of the cells and the disappearance of leukocytes. At the end of estrus, the cornified layer is sloughed off and invasion by leukocytes occurs. During diestrus, as well as in untreated ovariectomized rats, the vaginal contents consistently lack cornified cells whereas leukocytes are very plentiful. Proestrus follows diestrus: the vaginal smear is devoid of leukocytes and characterized by nucleated epithelial cells. Pregnancy, as well as the influence of progesterone on ovariectomized rats, is also characterized by epithelial growth and desquamation but at different rates, resulting in the presence of intermediate cells, and polymorphs and mucus forming a noticeable background to the smear. Since vaginal smears display cell pictures characteristic for each hormone after administration of estrogen or progesterone, exfoliate cytology is a good indicator of the stage of the reproductive state in the rat.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Epithelial Cells
  • Epithelium / drug effects
  • Estrogens / pharmacology*
  • Estrus
  • Female
  • Ovariectomy
  • Progesterone / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Vagina / cytology
  • Vagina / drug effects*
  • Vaginal Smears*


  • Estrogens
  • Progesterone