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Until recently, studies dealing with the uterus of the pregnant cow focus primarily on the placentome or on early and late pregnancy. Thus, there is a paucity of information about many aspects of the interplacentomal uterine wall including adherent foetal membranes. Corresponding tissue specimens were collected at the slaughterhouse and in animals undergoing premature caesarean section. Two specimens per month of pregnancy were assessed immunohistochemically for progesterone receptors, oestrogen receptor alpha and glucocorticoid receptors, Ki-67 protein and TUNEL procedure was performed. The latter two methods were employed in three animals each per months 1 and 2, 3 and 4, 7 and 8 and in six animals undergoing caesarean section at days 274 and 275 post insemination or during spontaneous labour. Results indicate that proliferation and apoptosis are of minor importance for tissue homeostasis since both can histochemically be detected only sporadically. Thus, at the sites investigated here, cellular hypertrophy plays an important role for tissue growth during pregnancy. Progesterone receptors, oestrogen receptor alpha and glucocorticoid receptors, however, exhibit cell type and pregnancy stage specific distribution patterns within the tissues assessed. Progesterone receptor immunoreactive scores remained fairly unchanged during pregnancy. Oestrogen receptor alpha scores, however, generally decreased and glucocorticoid receptors increased with ongoing gestation. Progesterone receptors and oestrogen receptor alpha were present in endometrial stroma and in myometrial smooth muscle cells during whole pregnancy. Oestrogen receptor alpha was detectable during whole pregnancy also in uterine glands. Progesterone receptors were, however, present at a very low level at the latter site only during months 1-3 and 6-9. Oestrogen receptor alpha and glucocorticoid receptors may also mediate uterine blood flow since they were present in the tunica media of uterine blood vessels. Results of the present study indicate, that progesterone and its receptor play an important role during whole gestation, mainly for uterine quiescence. Glucocorticoids and their receptors - possibly in cooperation with oestrogens and decreasing amounts of the oestrogen receptor alpha - should trigger processes initiating parturition, such as endometrial prostaglandin production. Further studies - including the periparturient period - should help to understand the exact role of the extraplacental compartment of the uterine wall for the initiation and progress of parturition.