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Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2013 Dec;38(12):3070-84. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2013.09.004. Epub 2013 Sep 14.

Thalamic neuropeptide mediating the effects of nursing on lactation and maternal motivation.

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Laboratory of Neuromorphology, Department of Anatomy, Histology and Embryology, Semmelweis University, Budapest 1094, Hungary; Research Group of Molecular and Systems Neurobiology, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest 1051, Hungary.


Nursing has important physiological and psychological consequences on mothers during the postpartum period. Tuberoinfundibular peptide of 39 residues (TIP39) may contribute to its effects on prolactin release and maternal motivation. Since TIP39-containing fibers and the receptor for TIP39, the parathyroid hormone 2 receptor (PTH2 receptor) are abundant in the arcuate nucleus and the medial preoptic area, we antagonized TIP39 action locally to reveal its actions. Mediobasal hypothalamic injection of a virus encoding an antagonist of the PTH2 receptor markedly decreased basal serum prolactin levels and the suckling-induced prolactin release. In contrast, injecting this virus into the preoptic area had no effect on prolactin levels, but did dampen maternal motivation, judged by reduced time in a pup-associated cage during a place preference test. In support of an effect of TIP39 on maternal motivation, we observed that TIP39 containing fibers and terminals had the same distribution within the preoptic area as neurons expressing Fos in response to suckling. Furthermore, TIP39 terminals closely apposed the plasma membrane of 82% of Fos-ir neurons. Retrograde tracer injected into the arcuate nucleus and the medial preoptic area labeled TIP39 neurons in the posterior intralaminar complex of the thalamus (PIL), indicating that these cells but not other groups of TIP39 neurons project to these hypothalamic regions. We also found that TIP39 mRNA levels in the PIL markedly increased around parturition and remained elevated throughout the lactation period, demonstrating the availability of the peptide in postpartum mothers. Furthermore, suckling, but not pup exposure without physical contact, increased Fos expression by PIL TIP39 neurons. These results indicate that suckling activates TIP39 neurons in the PIL that affect prolactin release and maternal motivation via projections to the arcuate nucleus and the preoptic area, respectively.


Ascending neuronal pathway; Brain circuitry; Hypothalamus; Maternal behavior; Preoptic area; Prolactin release; Rat dams; Suckling

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