Oxytocin and its carrier protein, neurophysin, are both associated with luteal secretory granules which migrate from the paranuclear region to the cell membrane where exocytosis takes place. Rab3 proteins are thought to be associated with membrane vesicles or granules undergoing exocytotic fusion with the plasma membrane. The objective of this study was to determine whether Rab3B is co-localized with oxytocin within the same secretory granules of large luteal cells obtained from corpora lutea of 16 Merino cross ewes at day 3, 7, 12 or 15 of the estrous cycle using immunocytochemistry. The mean granule density (granules/microm3) was not significantly different (P > 0.05) between the days examined. Electron microscopic immunocytochemistry showed that oxytocin and Rab3B were co-localized to the secretory granules on all days evaluated. Rab3B immunostaining was primarily located within secretory granules scattered throughout the cytoplasm. The mean intensity of labelling (number of gold particles) for oxytocin per microm2 cytoplasmic luteal tissue was significantly decreased on day 15 compared to those observed on days 3, 7 and 12 of estrous cycle. No significant changes were observed in the mean intensity of the Rab3B label at the different times of the cycle. The present study provides evidence that a member of the subfamily of Rab proteins, Rab3B, is present and co-localized with oxytocin in the same secretory granules of the ovine corpus luteum. These results implicate Rab3B protein directly or indirectly in the hormone secretory pathway of ovarian tissue.
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