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Vertebrate reproductive science and technology

Female reproductive tract fluids: composition, mechanism of formation and potential role in the developmental origins of health and disease

Henry J. Leese A E , Sasha A. Hugentobler B C , Susan M. Gray A D , Dermot G. Morris B , Roger G. Sturmey A , Sarah-Louise Whitear A and Joseph M. Sreenan B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Department of Biology, University of York, P.O. Box 373, York, YO10 5YW, UK.

B Teagasc, Animal Production Research Centre, Mellows Campus, Athenry, Galway, Ireland.

C Present address: Euresearch Head Office, P.O. Box 7924, CH-3001, Bern, Switzerland.

D Present address: Hull IVF Unit, The Women and Children’s Hospital, Hull Royal Infirmary, Anlaby Road, Hull, HU3 2JZ, UK.

E Corresponding author. Email:

Reproduction, Fertility and Development 20(1) 1-8
Published: 12 December 2007


The oviduct and uterus provide the environments for the earliest stages of mammalian embryo development. However, little is known about the mechanisms that underlie the formation of oviduct and uterine fluids, or the extent to which the supply of nutrients via these reproductive tract tissues matches the nutrient requirements of early embryos. After reviewing our limited knowledge of these phenomena, a new experimental paradigm is proposed in which the epithelia lining the endosalpinx and endometrium are seen as the final components in a supply line that links maternal diet at one end and embryo uptake of nutrients at the other. When considered in this way, the oviduct and uterine epithelia become, for a few days, potentially the most critical maternal tissues in the establishment of a healthy pregnancy. In fulfilling this ‘gatekeeper’ role, female reproductive tract fluids have a key role in the ‘developmental origins of health and disease’ concept.


H. J. Leese, acknowledges support from the UK Medical Research Council, R. G. Sturmey from the Epidemiology and Genetics Unit, Department of Health Sciences, University of York, UK, and S.-L. Whitear from the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and ANGLE plc.


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