3H-Naloxone was used to demonstrate the presence of specific opiate binding sites in uterine membrane preparations of rats. 3H-Naloxone binding (0.41-27 nM) was found to be rapid, saturable and reversible showing two populations of binding sites with the characteristic of high (KD 2.2 nM; Bmax 46.6 fmol/mg prot.) and low (KD 18.1 nM; Bmax 143.7 fmol/mg prot.) affinity. The number and affinity of the binding sites labelled by 3H-naloxone in the uterus were measured in the rat at mid (14 days), late (21 days) pregnancy and at parturition. The high and low affinity recognition sites labelled by 3H-naloxone showed a consistent reduction during pregnancy and at parturition without changes in the affinity constant. We concluded that pregnancy and parturition are associated with significant changes in the number of the opiate receptors bound in the uterus by 3H-naloxone. This phenomenon which seems to be linked with the several pregnancy-related changes in the levels of endogenous peptides and hormones could be relevant to further explain the pregnancy related changes in pain perception and maternal behavior.
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