Prolactin Suppression of Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone Initiation of Mammary Gland Involution in Female Rats

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It has been demonstrated that mammary gland involution after lactation is initiated by accumulation of milk in alveoli after weaning. Here, we report that involution is also dependent on mammary GnRH expression that is suppressed by PRL during lactation. Reduction of plasma prolactin (PRL) by the withdrawal of suckling stimuli increased GnRH and annexin A5 (ANXA5) expression in the mammary tissues after lactation with augmentation of epithelial apoptosis. Intramammary injection of a GnRH antagonist suppressed ANXA5 expression and apoptosis of epithelial cells after forcible weaning at midlactation, whereas local administration of GnRH agonist (GnRHa) caused apoptosis of epithelial cells with ANXA5 augmentation in lactating rats. The latter treatment also decreased mammary weight, milk production, and casein accumulation. Mammary mast cells were strongly immunopositive for GnRH and the number increased in the mammary tissues after weaning. GnRHa was shown to be a chemoattractant for mast cells by mammary local administration of GnRHa and Boyden chamber assay. PRL suppressed the mammary expression of both ANXA5 and GnRH mRNA. It also decreased mast cell numbers in the gland after lactation. These results are the first to demonstrate that GnRH, synthesized locally in the mammary tissues, is required for mammary involution after lactation. GnRH is also suggested to introduce mast cells into the regressing mammary gland and would be in favor of tissue remodeling. The suppression of these processes by PRL is a novel physiological function of PRL.

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