A longitudinal study of estrous cyclicity in aging C57BL/6J mice: I. Cycle frequency, length and vaginal cytology

Biol Reprod. 1982 Sep;27(2):327-39. doi: 10.1095/biolreprod27.2.327.


Cycle frequency, length, and vaginal cytology were measured longitudinally in three cohorts of singly housed virgin mice staggered across a 3-year interval. The age profiles of these parameters were qualitatively similar, but quantitatively different, among cohorts. Cycle frequency was initially low (Phase I), due to prolonged cycles and late-starting cycles, and did not peak (Phase II) until mice were 3-5 months old. Phase II lasted for 7-10 months, depending on the cohort. Thereafter cycle frequency declined steadily (Phase III). The average age of cessation of cyclicity varied among cohorts, occurring between 13 and 16 months of age. Age changes in cycle length paralleled those of cycle frequency. During Phase II, median cycle length was less than 5 days and variance was lowest. During Phases I and III, variance was about twofold greater and median cycle length was greater than 5 days. Although median cycle length remained stable for several months during Phase II, the peak period of 4-day cycles was much shorter. In all cohorts, 4-day cycles did not peak until 7-8 months of age and began to decline by 9 months. The decrease in 4-day cycles was associated with a progressive lengthening of cycles-first from 4 to 5 days, then to longer cycles. The fraction of cycles with extended cornification (greater than 2 days) increased with advancing age from less than 0.35 during the initial period of cycle lengthening to a maximum of 0.60. The observation that the initial phase o cycle prolongation was not usually associated with extended cornification is consistent with earlier evidence that this period is characterized by a delayed, rather than prolonged, preovulatory rise of estradiol. However, the increased fraction of prolonged cycles with extended cornification at later ages suggests that the preovulatory elevation of estradiol may ultimately be prolonged.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aging*
  • Animals
  • Epithelial Cells
  • Estrus*
  • Female
  • Leukocytes / cytology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Pregnancy
  • Time Factors
  • Vagina / cytology*