Dynamic control of maternal blood flow to the placenta is critical for healthy pregnancy. In many tissues, microvasculature arteries control the flow. The uterine/endometrial vascular bed changes during pregnancy include physiological remodeling of spiral arteries from constricted artery-like structures to dilated vein-like structures between Gestation Day 8 (gd8) and gd12 in mice and wk 12–16 in humans. These changes occur, in part, due to local environmental changes such as decidualization, recruitment of maternal uterine natural killer cells, and invasion of conceptus-derived trophoblasts. No current preparations permit in vivo testing of decidual microvascular reactivity. We report an in vivo intravital fluorescence microscopy model that permits functional study of the entire uterine microvascular bed (uterine, arcuate, radial, basal, and spiral arteries) in gravid C57BL/6 mice. Vascular reactivities were measured at gd8 prespiral arterial remodeling and gd12 (postremodeling) to a range of concentrations of adenosine (10−8–10−6 M), acetylcholine (10−7–10−5 M), phenylephrine (10−7–10−5 M), and angiotensin II (10−8–10−6 M). At baseline, each arterial branch order was significantly more dilated on gd12 than gd8. Each microvascular level responded to each agonist on gd8 and gd12. At gd12, vasodilation to adenosine was attenuated in uterine, arcuate, and basal arteries, while constrictor activity to angiotensin II was enhanced in uterine and arcuate arteries. The tendency for increasing vasoconstriction between gd8 to gd12 and the constrictor responses of modified spiral arteries were unexpected findings that may reflect influences of the intact in vivo environment rather than inherent properties of the vessels and may be relevant to ongoing human pregnancies.
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Vol. 89 • No. 6