The hormonal factors associated with converting a corpus luteum of estrous cycle into a corpus luteum of pseudopregnancy were studied by measuring LH, FSH, prolactin, estradiol and progesterone levels in decapitated rats during the 4-day estrous cycle and a comparable time of pseudopregnancy (lights on 0600–0800 hr). During the estrous cycle, prolactin, LH and FSH remained low and unchanging except on the afternoon of proestrus, when typical proestrous surges were observed. In contrast, estradiol levels began to increase on D-l, from baseline values of 7 pg/ml to approximately 15–20 pg/ml. These levels were maintained until the afternoon of D-2, when estradiol further increased to reach peak levels of 40–50 pg/ml by 0900 hr on proestrus. Estradiol then declined in relation to the increase in LH secretion and had returned to baseline by estrus. Progesterone secretion by the corpora lutea of the cycle also increased on the afternoon of D-l and reached a maximum value of 25–30 ng/ml early on the morning of D-2. At this time, a precipitous fall in progesterone occurred, returning to baseline values of 5–10 ng/ml by 0700 on D-2, signifying the regression of the corporalutea of the cycle. Progesterone remained low thereafter until the afternoon of proestrus when levels increased in response to the proestrous surge of LH. Following cervical stimulation at 1900 hr on proestrus, no differences were noted, with respect to the estrous cycle, in LH, FSH or estradiol secretion through the afternoon of D-2. Surprisingly, progesterone levels did not differ in the cycle and pseudopregnancy until the early morning of D-2. Instead of progesterone levels falling to baseline as they had during the cycle, the corpora lutea of pseudopregnancy were rescued, progesterone increasing dramatically to reach levels of 45–50 ng/ml by 1700 hr on that same day. The only difference in hormone secretion that was noted which could account for this marked divergence in progesterone secretion was the pattern of prolactin secretion following cervical stimulation. In contrast to the low levels seen during the estrous cycle, biphasic surges of prolactin secretion occurred each day, one being nocturnal (0100–0900 hr) and the other diurnal (1500–2100 hr). The rescue of the corpus luteum occurred in association with the nocturnal surge on D-2. These results suggest that prolactin is the major luteotropic stimulus which transforms an estrous cycle into a pseudopregnancyby prolonging progesterone secretion from the corpus luteum. Moreover, if LH is important for progesterone secretion, no changes were observed in the pattern of LH secretion which can account for the rescue of the corpus luteum.
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