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J Neuroendocrinol. 1992 Apr;4(2):167-72. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2826.1992.tb00155.x.

Neurohormonal Factors Involved in the Control of the Nocturnal Prolactin Surge that Precedes Parturition in the Rat.

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Animal Physiology Research Unit, School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand.


A nocturnal surge of prolactin (PRL) occurs in the dark period preceding parturition in the rat. The roles of oxytocin, vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP), serotonin and the opioids in controlling the antepartum PRL surge were investigated by examining PRL secretion over the last 2 days of pregnancy in the presence of antagonists to these neurohormonal factors. Serial blood samples were collected from unanesthetized, freely moving rats via indwelling jugular cannulae, and plasma PRL was measured by radioimmunoassay. In control rats PRL levels rose in a nocturnal surge peaking at 223 ± 34 ng/ml (n = 6) at 0500 h on day 21 of pregnancy, the day of parturition. Intra-arterial infusion of the oxytocin antagonist desGly-NH(2) d(CH(2) )(5) [Tyr(Me)(2) , Thr(4) ]-OVT at a dose sufficient to completely block milk ejection (10 μg/h) had no effect on this PRL surge. Infusion of the VIP antagonist [4Cl-D-Phe(6) ,Leu(17) ]-VIP at 2 μg/h from 2200 h on day 20 until 0500 h on day 21 significantly attenuated the antepartum PRL surge, reducing the peak to 76 ± 28 ng/ml at 0500 h on day 21 (n = 6; P<0.001). Naloxone, the opiate receptor antagonist, inhibited the antepartum PRL surge in a dose-dependent manner. Infused at 2 mg/h naloxone partially reduced the magnitude of the PRL surge, which peaked at 128 ± 24 ng/ml at 0300 h on day 21 (n = 4; P<0.05), while at 10 mg/h naloxone totally abolished the PRL surge (n = 6; P<0.001). Injection of the serotonin synthesis inhibitor ρ-chlorophenylalanine (250 mg/kg, sc at 1700 h on days 19 and 20 of pregnancy) increased the magnitude of the antepartum PRL surge to a peak of 327 ± 48 ng/ml at 0500 h on day 21 (n = 5), compared with 244 ± 24 ng/ml at the same time in vehicle-injected controls (P<0.05; n = 5). The results demonstrate that the antepartum PRL surge is stimulated by an opioid mechanism, and also by VIP. Oxytocin and serotonin have no role in stimulating PRL secretion during late pregnancy.

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