Background/Aims: Uterine contractility is controlled by electrical signals generated by myometrial smooth muscle cells. Because aberrant electrical signaling may cause inefficient uterine contractions and poor reproductive outcomes, there is great interest in defining the ion channels that regulate uterine excitability. In human myometrium, the Na + leak channel, non-selective (NALCN) contributes to a gadolinium-sensitive, Na + -dependent leak current. The aim of this study was to determine the role of NALCN in regulating uterine excitability and examine its involvement in parturition. Methods: Wildtype C57BL/6J mice underwent timed-mating and NALCN uterine expression was measured at several time points across pregnancy including pregnancy days 7, 10, 14, 18 and 19. Sharp electrode current clamp was used to measure uterine excitability at these same time points. To determine NALCN's contribution to myometrial excitability and pregnancy outcomes, we created smooth-muscle-specific NALCN knockout mice by crossing NALCNfx/fx mice with myosin heavy chain Cre (MHCCreeGFP) mice. Parturition outcomes were assessed by observation via surveillance video recording cre control, flox control, smNALCN +/- , and smNALCN -/- mice. Myometrial excitability was compared between pregnancy day 19 flox controls and smNALCN -/- mice. Results: We found that in the mouse uterus, NALCN protein levels were high early in pregnancy, decreased in mid and late pregnancy, and then increased in labor and postpartum. Sharp electrode current clamp recordings of mouse longitudinal myometrial samples from pregnancy days 7, 10, 14, 18, and 19 revealed day-dependent increases in burst duration and interval and decreases in spike density. NALCN smooth muscle knockout mice had reduced myometrial excitability exemplified by shortened action potential bursts, and an increased rate of abnormal labor, including prolonged and dysfunctional labor. Conclusions: Together, our findings demonstrate that the Na + conducting channel NALCN contributes to the myometrial action potential waveform and is important for successful labor outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)503-515
Number of pages13
JournalCellular Physiology and Biochemistry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018


  • Ion channels
  • Myometrium
  • Parturition
  • Uterine excitability


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