The vagina is the site of copulation and serves as the birth canal. It also provides protection against external pathogens. In mice, due to the absence of cervical glands, the vaginal epithelium is the main producer of vaginal mucus. The development and differentiation of vaginal epithelium-constituting cells and the molecular characteristics of vaginal mucus have not been thoroughly examined. Here, we characterized vaginal mucous cell development and the expression of mucus-related factors in pregnant mice. The vaginal mucous epithelium layer thickened and became multilayered after Day 12 of pregnancy and secreted increasing amounts of mucus until early postpartum. Using histochemistry and transmission electron microscopy, we found supra-basal mucous cells as probable candidates for precursor cells. In vaginal mucous cells, the expression of TFF1, a stabilizer of mucus, was high, and some members of mucins and antimicrobial peptides (MUC5B and DEFB1) were expressed in a stage-dependent manner. In summary, this study presents the partial characterization of vaginal epithelial mucous cell lineage and expression of genes encoding several peptide substances that may affect vaginal tissue homeostasis and mucosal immunity during pregnancy and parturition.
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