During lactation the suckling stimulus increases the activity of two populations of neuropeptide Y (NPY) neurons in the hypothalamus, the caudal portion of the arcuate nucleus (ARH) and the dorsomedial hypothalamus (DMH), and suppresses the activity of TIDA neurons in the ARH. In the present study, an acute resuckling model was used to examine the role of suckling-induced hyperprolactinemia in modulating the activity of these systems. Lactating rats were deprived of their eight-pup litters on day 9 postpartum, and 48 h later, the animals served either as nonsuckled controls (0 pups) or were suckled for 24 h. In addition, some of the resuckled animals received two sc injections of bromocriptine (0.5 mg/rat·injection), a dopamine D2 agonist, to inhibit suckling-induced PRL secretion. In situ hybridization was performed for rat NPY messenger RNA (mRNA) and tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) mRNA to provide an index for NPY and TIDA neuronal activities, respectively. Resuckling for 24 h induced a significant increase in NPY mRNA levels in the caudal portion of the ARH and in the DMH. Bromocriptine treatment did not alter the increase in NPY mRNA levels in the ARH, whereas the treatment greatly attenuated the increase in NPY mRNA in the DMH. TH mRNA levels in the rostral ARH area returned to basal levels in the nonsuckled control animals, and 24 h of resuckling significantly suppressed TH mRNA expression in this area. Bromocriptine treatment caused a significant increase in TH mRNA levels compared with those in the eight-pup suckled group. Thus, the results from the present study demonstrate that the suckling stimulus activated the two populations of NPY neurons and suppressed TIDA activity. Suckling-induced hyperprolactinemia did not participate in the increase in ARH NPY activity, whereas it played a major stimulatory role in suckling-induced activation of NPY neurons in the DMH and an inhibitory role in suckling-induced suppression of TIDA activity. The increase in TIDA activity after bromocriptine treatment was unexpected and suggests that the role of PRL in the regulation of TIDA activity is significantly altered during lactation.
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