A rapid means of assessing reproductive status in rodents is useful not only in the study of reproductive dysfunction but is also required for the production of new mouse models of disease and investigations into the hormonal regulation of tissue degeneration (or regeneration) following pathological challenge. The murine reproductive (or estrous) cycle is divided into 4 stages: proestrus, estrus, metestrus, and diestrus. Defined fluctuations in circulating levels of the ovarian steroids 17-β-estradiol and progesterone, the gonadotropins luteinizing and follicle stimulating hormones, and the luteotropic hormone prolactin signal transition through these reproductive stages. Changes in cell typology within the murine vaginal canal reflect these underlying endocrine events. Daily assessment of the relative ratio of nucleated epithelial cells, cornified squamous epithelial cells, and leukocytes present in vaginal smears can be used to identify murine estrous stages. The degree of invasiveness, however, employed in collecting these samples can alter reproductive status and elicit an inflammatory response that can confound cytological assessment of smears. Here, we describe a simple, non-invasive protocol that can be used to determine the stage of the estrous cycle of a female mouse without altering her reproductive cycle. We detail how to differentiate between the four stages of the estrous cycle by collection and analysis of predominant cell typology in vaginal smears and we show how these changes can be interpreted with respect to endocrine status.

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Keywords 17-beta-estradiol, Anatomy, Biochemistry, Estrous cycle, Follicle-stimulating hormone, Hormonal status, Immunology, Issue 67, Luteinizing hormone, Medicine, Microbiology, Murine reproduction, Physiology, Progesterone, Prolactin, Vaginal cytology
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.3791/4389
Journal Journal of Visualized Experiments
McLean, A.C. (Ashleigh C.), Valenzuela, N. (Nicolas), Fai, S, & Bennett, S.A.L. (Steffany A.L.). (2012). Performing vaginal lavage, crystal violet staining, and vaginal cytological evaluation for mouse estrous cycle staging identification. Journal of Visualized Experiments, (67). doi:10.3791/4389