1. Receptors for angiotensin II were identified and characterized in membrane fractions from myometrial samples obtained at non-pregnant hysterectomy in women of reproductive age. Specific binding was also measured in paired samples of vascular and ‘vessel-free’ myometrium.
2. A single class of high-affinity receptor sites was identified in the total myometrial preparations (n = 10), with a median equilibrium dissociation constant (Kd) of 0.122 nmol/l (range 0.065–0.465 nmol/l) and concentration of receptor sites (Bmax) of 149 fmol/mg protein (range 105–435 fmol/mg). Receptor characterization studies using losartan (an angiotensin type 1 receptor antagonist) and PD123177 (an angiotensin type 2 receptor antagonist) showed the myometrium to contain almost entirely type 2 receptors.
3. The median Kd and Bmax for specific angiotensin II binding in isolated myometrial vessel homogenates were 0.086 nmol/l (range 0.060–0.433) and 260 fmol/mg protein (range 197–737 fmol/mg) respectively. Vascular specific binding density was always higher in dissected out myometrial vessels than in paired vessel-free myometrium (median 372 compared with 120 fmol/mg protein; n = 20; P < 0.001). The specific binding in the paired samples was strongly correlated (r = 0.8904, P < 0.0001).
4. The specific binding of 125I-labelled angiotensin II in ‘vessel-free’ myometrium was higher in samples from the follicular phase than in samples from the luteal phase (median 144 compared with 37 fmol/mg; P < 0.02). A similar trend was found in the vessels themselves, but this failed to reach statistical significance (459 compared with 225 fmol/mg; P = 0.051).
5. It is suggested that the down-regulation of the angiotensin type 2 receptors in the luteal (secretory) phase is a preparation for pregnancy, removing an inhibitory factor to uterine growth and vascularization and allowing greater prostacyclin synthesis.