We have characterized the molecular properties of the plasminogen activators in different cell types comprising the immature and the estrogen-stimulated rat uterus and in rat uterine luminal fluid. There were two plasminogen activators in the immature (day 20) rat uterus with apparent molecular weights, determined by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, of 70, 000 and 46, 000. Both plasminogen activators were present in epithelial and in stromal plus myometrial cell fractions of the immature uterus, and after stimulation by 17β-estradiol, no new plasminogen activators were detected in either cell fraction. The Michaelis constants (Km) for the activation of dog plasminogen by extracts from epithelial cells and from stromal plus myometrial cells obtained from either immature or 17β-estradiol-stimulated uteri were similar (11 μM). The maximal velocity (Vmax), normalized to protein concentration, increased 2.5-fold in the stromal plus myometrial cell fraction and 6.5-fold in the epithelial cell fraction, upon hormone stimulation (2 17β-estradiol/day·rat for 3 days). The greatest concentration of plasminogen activator activity was found in the luminal fluid from estrogen-stimulated uteri, where the Vmax per mg protein was more than 10-fold greater than that in the cell fractions from estrogen-stimulated uteri. The plasminogen activator activity of luminal fluid was inhibited by diisopropyl fluorophosphate and ρ-nitrophenyl ρ-guanidinobenzoate, was not inhibited by human α-1-proteinase inhibitor and human antithrombin III, and was inhibited by high, but not low, concentrations of soybean trypsin inhibitor and bovine pancreatic trypsin inhibitor. These studies indicate that the plasminogen activators in different cell types comprising the uterus are similar and show that the estrogen enhancement of uterine plasminogen activator activity is the result of an increase in Vmax. The presence, upon hormone stimulation, of an apparent concentration gradient of increasing plasminogen activator activity through the uterus from myometrium to epithelium to luminal fluid may be a reflection of the dynamic role of this protease in the physiology of the uterus.
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