Key points: In vivo, uterine perivascular adipose tissue (PVAT) potentiates uterine artery blood flow in pregnant rats, although not in non-pregnant rats. In isolated preparations, uterine PVAT has pro-contractile and anti-dilatory effects on uterine arteries. Pregnancy induces changes in uterine arteries that makes them responsive to uterine PVAT signalling. Abstract: An increase in uterine artery blood flow (UtBF) is a common and necessary feature of a healthy pregnancy. In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that adipose tissue surrounding uterine arteries (uterine perivascular adipose tissue; PVAT) is a novel local mediator of UtBF and uterine artery tone during pregnancy. In vivo experiments in anaesthetized Sprague–Dawley rats showed that pregnant animals (gestational day 16, term = 22––23 days) had a three-fold higher UtBF compared to non-pregnant animals. Surgical removal of uterine PVAT reduced UtBF only in pregnant rats. In a series of ex vivo bioassays, we demonstrated that uterine PVAT had pro-contractile and anti-dilatory effects on rat uterine arteries. In the presence of PVAT-conditioned media, isolated uterine arteries from both pregnant and non-pregnant rats had reduced vasodilatory responses. In non-pregnant rats, these responses were mediated at the level of uterine vascular smooth muscle, whereas, in pregnant rats, PVAT-media reduced endothelium-dependent relaxation. Pregnancy increased adipocyte size in ovarian adipose tissue but had no effect on uterine PVAT adipocyte morphology. In addition, pregnancy down-regulated the gene expression of metabolic adipokines in uterine but not in aortic PVAT. In conclusion, this is the first study to demonstrate that uterine PVAT plays a regulatory role in UtBF, at least in part, as a result of its actions on uterine artery tone. We propose that the interaction between the uterine vascular wall and its adjacent adipose tissue may provide new insights for interventions in pregnancies with adipose tissue dysfunction and abnormal UtBF.
- adipose tissue
- blood flow