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Neuroendocrinology. 1987 Jun;46(1):39-47.

Oxytocin and vasopressin immunoreactivity in hypothalamic and extrahypothalamic sites in late pregnant and postpartum rats.


This study examines immunoreactive levels of oxytocin (OT) and arginine-vasopressin (AVP) from acid extracts of the paraventricular nucleus (PVN), supraoptic nucleus (SON), anterior commissural nucleus (ACN) and the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) as well as selected extrahypothalamic sites in pregnant or postpartum (PP) rats. Animals are sacrificed between 08.30 and 10.30 h 16 or 22 days after sperm is detected in their vaginal smears or on the morning after parturition. Peptide levels of pregnant or PP animals are compared to levels of ovariectomized (OVXed) rats sacrificed and assayed simultaneously. OT immunoreactive levels in the PVN and SON are significantly elevated in late pregnancy and PP. OT content of the ACN is elevated on day 16, but drops to control levels by day 22 of pregnancy and day 1 PP. Concomitant with the falling OT content in the ACN at the end of pregnancy, samples from the ventral septum have significantly increased OT content on day 1 PP. In extracts including the nucleus of the tractus solitarius (NTS) and dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus (dMX) OT is also elevated on the day after parturition. AVP levels peak on the day before parturition in all hypothalamic nuclei examined. These increases are significantly greater than in OVXed controls in the PVN and SON. AVP levels in the lateral habenula are elevated both on day 16 of pregnancy and on the first day PP. From these data we conclude that nonapeptide levels are altered across late pregnancy and early postpartum in some hypothalamic synthesis sites and in certain limbic and brainstem sites. We also postulate that OT is transported out of the ACN to extrahypothalamic sites around the time of parturition.

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