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Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2011 Sep;301(3):R676-81. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00176.2011. Epub 2011 Jun 15.

Systemic oxytocin induces a prolactin secretory rhythm via the pelvic nerve in ovariectomized rats.

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Departments of Biological Science, Biomedical Research Facility, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, USA.


We have shown previously that an intravenous injection of oxytocin (OT) in ovariectomized (OVX) rats initiates a circadian rhythm of prolactin (PRL) secretion similar to that observed after cervical stimulation (CS). In this study, we investigated the pathway through which OT triggers the PRL rhythm. We first tested whether an intracerebroventricular injection of OT could trigger the PRL secretory rhythm. As it did not, we injected OT intravenously while an OT receptor antagonist was infused intravenously. This antagonist completely abolished the PRL surges, suggesting that a peripheral target of OT is necessary for triggering the PRL rhythm. We hypothesized that OT may induce PRL release, which would be transported into the brain and trigger the rhythm. In agreement with this, OT injection increased circulating PRL by 5 min. To test whether this acute increase in PRL release would induce the PRL rhythm, we compared the effect of intravenously administered thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) and OT. Although TRH injection also increased PRL to a comparable level after 5 min, only OT-injected animals expressed the PRL secretory rhythm. Motivated by prior findings that bilateral resection of the pelvic nerve blocks CS-induced pseudopregnancy and OT-induced facilitation of lordosis, we then hypothesized that the OT signal may be transmitted through the pelvic nerve. In fact, OT injection failed to induce a PRL secretory rhythm in pelvic-neurectomized animals, suggesting that the integrity of the pelvic nerve is necessary for the systemic OT induction of the PRL secretory rhythm in OVX rats.

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