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Biol Reprod. 2000 Oct;63(4):1179-84.

Repeated exposure to prolactin is required to induce luteal regression in the hypophysectomized rat.

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Department of Physiology and Reproductive Sciences Program, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-0622, USA.


We investigated whether prolactin (PRL) treatments resembling the intermittent PRL surges of estrous cycles could induce luteal regression in hypophysectomized rats. Immature female rats were stimulated to ovulate and form corpora lutea with exogenous gonadotropins, and were hypophysectomized following ovulation. A single s.c. injection of either vehicle (VEH) or PRL was administered to each rat on post-hypophysectomy Day 8 and again on Day 11. The four resulting treatment groups consisted of rats that received two injections of VEH, VEH followed by PRL, PRL followed by VEH, or two injections of PRL. Rats were killed 24 or 72 h following the second injection. Plasma 20alpha-dihydroprogesterone, luteal weight, and total luteal protein were determined. One ovary was sectioned for immunohistochemistry for monocytes/macrophages, apoptotic nuclei, and major histocompatibility class II (MHC II) molecules. No effect of time (following injection) was observed on any endpoint, indicating that PRL does not have an ongoing regressive action. Time groups from within each treatment group were therefore pooled for analysis. Significant declines (P: < 0.05) in plasma concentrations of 20alpha-dihydroprogesterone, luteal weight, and protein per corpus luteum occurred only after two injections of PRL. Numbers of luteal monocytes/macrophages, apoptotic nuclei, and MHC II-positive cells were low in all groups; numbers of luteal monocytes/macrophages increased following two injections of PRL (P: < 0.05). We conclude that PRL has a cumulative regressive effect on the corpus luteum of the hypophysectomized rat. Drawing a parallel with the estrous cycle, we suggest that continued exposure to PRL, over several cycles, is necessary to induce full luteal regression.

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