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J Neuroendocrinol. 2010 Jul;22(7):778-84. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2826.2010.02012.x. Epub 2010 Apr 29.

A tale of two rhythms: the emerging roles of oxytocin in rhythmic prolactin release.

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Department of Mathematics and Programs in Neuroscience and Molecular Biophysics, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, USA.


Hormone secretion often occurs in a pulsatile manner. In this review, we discuss two rhythms of in vivo prolactin release in female rats and the ongoing research that we and others have performed aiming to understand the mechanisms underlying them. The peptide hormone oxytocin appears to play an important role in both rhythms. One rhythm occurs during the first half of pregnancy, but can also be induced in ovariectomised rats. This is characterised by a circadian pattern with two prolactin surges per day. Two methods for triggering this rhythm are discussed, each utilising a unique physiological pathway that includes oxytocin action, presumably on pituitary lactotrophs. The second rhythm occurs during the oestrous cycle and is characterised by a surge of prolactin on the afternoon of pro-oestrus. We discuss recent findings that oxytocin is more effective at stimulating prolactin release from lactotrophs taken from animals on the afternoon of pro-oestrus than from those of animals on the morning of dioestrus 1, raising the possibility that this hormone plays a physiological role in the regulation of prolactin secretion during the oestrous cycle.

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