Short-Term Increase and Long-Term Decrease of Blood Pressure in Response to Oxytocin-Potentiating Effect of Female Steroid Hormones

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To investigate how the effects of oxytocin on blood pressure are influenced by female sex hormones, oxytocin (1 mg/kg, s.c.) was given to intact cycling and ovariectomized (OVX) female rats. Oxytocin caused a transient increase in blood pressure, most pronounced during proestrus (p < 0.01) and estrus (p < 0.01). This increase was partially antagonized by an oxytocin antagonist. When oxytocin was given for 5 days, blood pressure decreased (intact rats: 123 ± 1.5 vs. 130 ± 1.3 mm Hg; p < 0.001, OVX rats: 120 ± 3.0 vs. 129 ± 1.1 mm Hg; p < 0.001). This decrease, not abolished by the oxytocin antagonist, persisted for 3 weeks in intact rats and for 8 days in OVX rats. If oxytocin treatment of OVX rats continued, a nadir of 12 mm Hg (118 ± 1.7 mm Hg; p < 0.001) was reached after 8 days. Thereafter heart rate decreased significantly (p < 0.05). One daily oxytocin injection for 12 days to OVX rats decreased blood pressure for 3 weeks, as in intact rats. These results show that acute and chronic oxytocin treatment cause opposite effects on blood pressure, and that these effects are modified by female sex hormones.

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