To investigate the role of ovarian steroids in the initiation and maintenance ofthe prolactin surges typical of pseudopregnancy in the rat, the pattern of plasma prolactin concentrations resulting from cervical stimulation of long-term ovariectomized rats was determined. Cervical stimulation of rats, ovariectomized 2-4 weeks previously, at 1900 h (lights on 0600-1800 h) resulted in a surge of prolactin which was initiated 4-6 h later and which was similar in timing and duration to the nocturnal prolactin surge of intact, pseudopregnant rats. Daily prolactin surges continued for 6 days but declined thereafter. Because plasma progesterone levels were elevated significantly after cervical stimulation, the experiment was repeated in adrenalectomized- ovariectomized rats. Prolactin surges were still observed, demonstrating that ovarian and adrenal steroids are required neither for initiation nor maintenance of prolactin surges after cervical stimulation. Cervical stimulation at different times of the day (1900 h, 2400 h or 0400 h) always resulted in a surge of prolactin which peaked at 0300-0700 h. The latency from cervical stimulation to the peak of the prolactin surge was 8 h for the 1900 h group, 5 h for the 2400 h group, and 3 h for the 0400 h group. Thus, the appearance of prolactin surges is related to the time of day rather than to the time cervical stimulation is applied, demonstrating the existence of a “critical period” for cervically-induced prolactin release.
ASJC Scopus subject areas