1. The earlier observation (Woessner, 1969) of oestradiol inhibition of collagen breakdown is confirmed and extended. Administration of 100μg of oestradiol-17β/day to parturient rats strongly inhibits the loss of collagen from the involuting uterus. Three experiments show that this effect is due to an inhibition of collagen degradation rather than to a stimulation of collagen synthesis. 2. Uterine collagen was labelled with hydroxy[14C]-proline by the administration of [14C]proline near the end of pregnancy. By 3 days post partum, control uteri lost 83% of their collagen and 90% of their hydroxy[14C]proline. Uteri from oestradiol-treated rats lost only 50% of both total and labelled hydroxyproline, with no decrease in the specific radioactivity of the hydroxyproline. 3. Incorporation of [14C]proline into uterine collagen hydroxyproline in vivo was not affected by oestradiol treatment. 4. Urinary excretion of hydroxyproline was increased in post-partum control rats and decreased in oestradiol-treated rats. 5. An enzyme capable of cleaving 4-phenylazobenzyloxycarbonyl-l-prolyl-l-leucylglycyl- l-prolyl-d-arginine (a substrate for clostridial collagenase) increased in activity in the post-partum uterus and was unaffected by oestradiol treatment. 6. Uterine homogenates digested uterine collagen extensively at pH3.2. This digestion was unaffected by the oestradiol treatment. 7. Lysosomal fractions prepared by density-gradient centrifugation of uterine homogenates contained coincident peaks of cathepsin D activity and peptide-bound hydroxyproline. The cathepsin D and hydroxyproline contents of this peak were unaffected by oestradiol treatment.

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