Growing evidence suggests important roles for specialized platelet-derived growth factor receptor alpha-positive (PDGFRalpha ) cells in regulating the behaviors of visceral smooth muscle organs. Examination of the female reproductive tracts of mice and monkeys showed that PDGFRalpha cells form extensive networks in ovary, oviduct, and uterus. PDGFRalpha cells were located in discrete locations within these organs, and their distribution and density were similar in rodents and primates. PDGFRalpha cells were distinct from smooth muscle cells and interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC). This was demonstrated with immunohistochemical techniques and by performing molecular expression studies on PDGFRalpha cells from mice with enhanced green fluorescent protein driven off of the endogenous promoter for Pdgfralpha. Significant differences in gene expression were found in PDGFRalpha cells from ovary, oviduct, and uterus. Differences in gene expression were also detected in cells from different tissue regions within the same organ (e.g., uterine myometrium vs. endometrium). PDGFRalpha cells are unlikely to provide pacemaker activity because they lack significant expression of key pacemaker genes found in ICC (Kit and Ano1). Gja1 encoding connexin 43 was expressed at relatively high levels in PDGFRalpha cells (except in the ovary), suggesting these cells can form gap junctions to one another and neighboring smooth muscle cells. PDGFRalpha cells also expressed the early response transcription factor and proto-oncogene Fos, particularly in the ovary. These data demonstrate extensive distribution of PDGFRalpha cells throughout the female reproductive tract. These cells are a heterogeneous population of cells that are likely to contribute to different aspects of physiological regulation in the various anatomical niches they occupy.
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Vol. 92 • No. 4