We investigated the functional and histological changes after oophorectomy in the rabbit clitoris and vagina to determine the mechanism responsible for the development of arousal disorder in postmenopausal women. Twenty mature female New Zealand white rabbits were randomly divided into three groups: control; oophorectomy; and estrogen replacement after oophorectomy. We compared the nitric oxide synthase (NOS) activity and the degree of expression of neuronal (nNOS) and endothelial NOS (eNOS) using biochemical and Western blot analysis in clitoral and vaginal tissues. Histological change of smooth muscle and collagen contents in those tissues were also compared using Masson's trichrome staining. NOS activity and the expression of nNOS and eNOS were significantly increased in the oophorectomized group while there was a decrease to the level of the control group in the estrogen replacement group. Histological examination showed that oophorectomy induced a significant increase in collagen and decrease in muscle content in both clitoris and vagina, while the ratio of smooth muscle content was increased significantly after the estrogen replacement. Our results clearly demonstrate that estrogen deficiency induces compensatory NOS production which may be related to decreases in muscle to collagen ratio in female rabbit genital organs.
- Smooth muscle