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J Neuroendocrinol. 2010 Oct;22(10):1061-71. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2826.2010.02049.x.

Noradrenergic nuclei that receive sensory input during mating and project to the ventromedial hypothalamus play a role in mating-induced pseudopregnancy in the female rat.

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Department of Biology, Boston University, Boston, MA, USA. Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey, Morristown, NJ, USA.


In female rats, vaginal-cervical stimulation (VCS) received during mating induces bicircadian prolactin surges that are required for the maintenance of pregnancy or pseudopregnancy (PSP). The neural circuits that transmit VCS inputs to the brain have not been fully described, although mating stimulation is known to activate medullary noradrenergic cell groups that project to the forebrain. In response to VCS, these neurones release noradrenaline within the ventrolateral division of the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMHvl) and the posterodorsal medial amygdala (MePD), two forebrain sites that are implicated in the initiation of PSP. Noradrenaline receptor activation within the VMHvl is both necessary and sufficient for PSP induction, suggesting that noradrenaline acting within the VMHvl is particularly important in mediating the effects of VCS towards the establishment of PSP. We therefore investigated whether or not endogenous, VCS-induced noradrenaline release within the VMHvl is involved in PSP induction in the rat. Before the receipt of sufficient mating stimulation to induce PSP, a retrograde neurotoxin, dopamine-β-hydroxylase-saporin (DBH-SAP), was infused bilaterally into the either the VMHvl or the MePD to selectively destroy afferent noradrenergic nuclei in the brainstem. DBH-SAP infusions into the VMHvl lesioned mating-responsive noradrenergic neurones in A1 and A2 medullary nuclei and reduced the incidence of PSP by 50%. Infusions of DBH-SAP into the MePD had no effect on the subsequent induction of PSP. These results suggest that VCS is conveyed to mating-responsive forebrain areas by brainstem noradrenergic neurones, and that the activity of noradrenergic cells projecting to the VMHvl is involved in the induction of PSP.

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