The location of pacemakers in the uteri of pregnant guinea pigs and rats

Wim J.E.P. Lammers, Betty Stephen, Mahmood Ahmed Al-Sultan, Sandeep B. Subramanya, Andrew M. Blanks

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19 Citations (Scopus)


The pregnant uterus is a smooth muscle organ whose pattern of contraction is dictated by the propagation of electrical impulses. Such electrical activity may originate from one or more pacemakers, but the location of these sites has not yet been determined. To detect the location of the pacemaker in the gravid uterus, two approaches were used: 1) determine the site from where the contraction started using isolated uteri from the pregnant guinea pig, and videotape their contractions; and 2) record, in isolated uteri from pregnant term rats, with 240 extracellular electrodes simultaneously, and determine where the electrical bursts started. In both the contractile and electrophysiological experiments, there was not a single, specific pacemaker area. However, most contractions (guinea pig 87%) and bursts (rat 76%) started close to the mesometrial border (mean 2.7 ± 4.0 mm SD in guinea pigs and 1.3 ± 1.4 mm in rats). In addition, in the rat, most sites of initiations were located closer to the ovarial end of the horn (mean distance from the ovarial end 6.0 ± 6.2 mm SD), whereas such an orientation was not seen in the guinea pig. In both guinea pig and rat uteri at term, there is not one specific pacemaker area. Rather, contractile and electrical activity may arise from any site, with the majority starting close to the mesometrial border. Furthermore, in the rat, most activities started at the ovarial end of the horn. This may suggest a slightly different pattern of contraction in both species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)R1439-R1446
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Electrical activity
  • High-resolution electrical mapping
  • Pregnant uterus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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