During lactation, the suckling stimulus exerts profound influences on neuroendocrine regulation in nursing rats. We examined the acute effect of pup removal on the estrogen- induced surge of LH secretion in ovariectomized lactating rats. Lactating and nonlactating cyclic female rats were given an estradiol-containing capsule after ovariectomy, and blood samples were collected through an indwelling catheter for serum LH determinations. In lactating, freely suckled ovariectomized rats, estrogen treatment induced an afternoon LH surge with a magnitude and timing comparable to those seen in nonlactating rats. Removal of pups from the lactating rats at 0900, 1100, or 1300 h, but not at 1500 h, suppressed the estrogen-induced surge that normally occurs in the afternoon of the same day. The suppressive effect of pup removal at 0900 h was completely abolished when the pups were returned by 1400 h. In contrast, pup removal was ineffective in abolishing the stimulatory effect of progesterone on LH surges. Double immunohistochemical staining for gonadotropin- releasing hormone (GnRH) and c-Fos, a marker for neuronal activation, revealed a decrease, concomitantly with the suppression of LH surges, in the number of c-Fos-immunoreactive GnRH neurons in the preoptic regions of nonsuckled rats. An LH surge was restored in nonsuckled rats when 0.1 μg oxytocin was injected into the third ventricle three times at 1-h intervals during pup removal. These results suggest that the GnRH surge generator of lactating rats requires the suckling stimulus that is not involved in nonlactating cyclic female rats.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism