The immature female rat shows a mid-afternoon surge of prolactin secretion which reaches a maximum on the day of first pro-oestrus. The present experiments were undertaken to elucidate the mechanisms which underly the development of this prolactin discharge. Detailed plasma prolactin profiles were obtained from short-term (48 h) ovariectomized rats at 23, 28 or 37 days of age. In the two older groups, but not the youngest, a mid-afternoon surge of prolactin secretion occurred in spite of the absence of the ovaries. To exclude the possibility that such an apparent ovarian-independent discharge of prolactin was due to an oestradiol effect which persisted for 2 days following ovariectomy, another study was conducted using long-term ovariectomized animals. Plasma profiles were obtained from neonatally ovariectomized rats at ages equivalent to juvenile (26-28 days), peripubertal (38-41 days) or adult (46-49 days) phases of development. A mid-afternoon surge of prolactin secretion was observed in the majority of animals (eight out of twelve) irrespective of the interval after ovariectomy; this finding further indicates that in the female rat there is a centrally originated mid-afternoon episode of prolactin secretion which is expressed during juvenile development even in the absence of the ovaries. The relatively small magnitude of these ovarian-independent prolactin discharges (c.f. the preovulatory prolactin surge) suggested that in the intact animal they are amplified by ovarian secretions. To test this hypothesis, oestradiol-containing silicone elastomer capsules were implanted s.c. into juvenile rats, immediately after ovariectomy, and plasma prolactin profiles examined 2 days later (28 days of age). In all cases the prolactin surge was greatly amplified and in many instances the magnitude was identical to that observed at first pro-oestrus. These data suggest that development of the large pro-oestrous surge of prolactin secretion involves the interplay of at least two distinct neuroendocrine mechanisms: (1) a centrally originated ovarian-independent signal and (2) an amplification effect exerted by ovarian oestradiol.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism