The properties of cervical-vagina fluid are under strict hormonal control: and in mammals in which semen is deposited in the anterior vagina, changes produced in these properties can result in a lower or higher resistance to sperm motion. The aim of this study was to determine whether the structural organization of bovine vaginal fluid is related to its rheological properties. Vaginal fluid samples were collected from 41 cows at oestrus: 20 at the middle of oestrus (between 8 and 12 h after starting) and 21 at the end of oestrus (between 18 and 22 h). Flow behaviour was determined using a viscosimeter, and the ultrastructural analysis was performed by scanning electron microscopy. Six samples showed newtonian behaviour: three collected at the middle and three collected at the end of oestrus. Newtonian samples had dense and compact matrices arranged as membranes with rough, irregular surfaces, and sparse, thin filaments (< 150 nm). Non-newtonian samples collected at the end of oestrus (n = 18) had a higher (P = 0.016) consistency index (K = 944 ± 229 mPa.sn) than those collected at the middle of oestrus (n = 17; K = 237 ± 84 mPa.sn). Thick filaments (> 700 nm) that were either randomly arranged with thinner filaments forming a mesh or heavily cross-linked by thin filaments (50-150 nm) were observed in all non-newtonian samples collected at the end of oestrus, while medium-diameter filaments (between 200 and 500 nm) forming loose networks were observed in non-newtonian samples collected at the middle of oestrus. These findings indicate a close relationship between the molecular organization of the structural elements of bovine vaginal fluid and its rheological behaviour. Vaginal fluid dramatically reduces its mechanical barrier effect during the course of oestrus but always appears to maintain its three-dimensional filamentous structure. The images of vaginal fluid showing newtonian behaviour would appear to support previous results, suggesting that this property may be related to bovine infertility.
- Vaginal fluid