To determine whether VIP functions as a physiological PRL-releasing factor, the effects of immunoneutralization of endogenous vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) on the PRL secretory response to suckling and ether stress were assessed. Using a porcine VIP-thyroglobulin conjugate as antigen, a peptide-specific antiserum was generated in a rabbit which bound porcine VIP with a Kd of 5.1 × 10−11 m and a maximum binding capacity of 1830 ng/ml. In a RIA, this antiserum demonstrated immunoreactive VIP in tissue extracts of various regions of the brain and gastrointestinal tract. IR VIP in extracts of cerebral cortex and hypothalamus coeluted with synthetic porcine VIP on Bio-Gel P-30 column chromatography. Using chronically implanted right atrial catheters for blood sampling to avoid effects of stress and anesthesia, PRL blood levels in normal controls began to rise almost immediately after initiation of suckling from basal values of 3.0 ± 0.9 ng/ml to reach a plateau of 158.1 ± 33.5 ng/ml after 40 min. When the VIP antiserum was administered immediately before initiation of suckling, the onset of the PRL response was delayed by 40 min, but PRL levels then rose at a slower rate to reach the plateau level of normal animals approximately 80 min later. When VIP antiserum was administered to rats who had been suckling for at least 1 h, PRL levels fell from a mean basal elevated level of 152.7 ± 16.0 ng/ml to a nadir of 50.4 ± 9.1 ng/ml 80 min after injection and then gradually returned to basal levels. The effect of VIP antiserum was studied in rats in whom PRL secretion was increased by exposure to ether, a stimulus that acts on the release phase of PRL secretion. In rats in whom the depletiontransformation of PRL was induced by a prior brief period of suckling, subsequent exposure to ether caused a rise in serum PRL levels. The response was completely blocked in rats given VIP antiserum, whereas animals given nonimmune serum showed a significant increase in serum PRL to 38.6 ± 17.3 ng/ ml. We conclude from these studies that VIP mediates the acute PRL response to suckling and is required for maintenance of PRL levels in continuously suckling animals but is not the only factor causing PRL elevation. Complete abolition by the VIP antiserum of the PRL response to ether indicates that the effect of the anesthetic is mediated entirely by the release of VIP. These findings are consistent with the view that VIP is a physiological PRL-releasing factor in the rat.
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