Noradrenergic Innervation of the Ventromedial Hypothalamus is Involved in Mating-Induced Pseudopregnancy in the Female Rat

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Abstract

The ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH) is an oestrogen-responsive area known to facilitate female sexual behaviour in the rat. The VMH is innervated by noradrenergic neurones projecting from the brain stem, and it has been demonstrated that noradrenaline receptor activation in the VMH plays a role in the expression of the lordosis reflex. Noradrenaline has been shown to be released within the VMH after a female receives vaginocervical stimulation (VCS) from the male during mating. VCS also is required to induce twice-daily surges of prolactin (PRL) characteristic of early pregnancy or pseudopregnancy (PSP). To determine whether noradrenaline within the ventrolateral ventromedial hypothalamus (VMHvl) plays a facilitatory role in initiation of PSP, we administered the α1-noradrenergic receptor agonist, phenylephrine, and the α2-autoreceptor antagonist, yohimbine, unilaterally into the VMHvl. Phenylephrine stimulated PSP in 85.7% of females given an amount of VCS known to be subthreshold for the induction of PSP, whereas saline infusion (0%) or cannula misplacement (7.7%) were ineffective. Yohimbine had a similar effect, inducing PSP in 85.7% of females, whereas 7.6% of both control groups together showed PSP. Finally, bilateral blockade of α1-receptors using prazosin blocked PSP in 100% of females given sufficient VCS to induce PSP, whereas saline infusion or misplaced intracerebral cannulae failed to prevent PSP in any animal. In all experiments, vaginal dioestrous was indicative of PSP, in that animals showed a mean number of days between oestrus of 12.8 ± 0.9. The results of the study demonstrate an important role for the VMHvl in initiation of PSP and suggest that the release of noradrenaline in the VMHvl at the time of mating contributes to neuroendocrine mechanisms responsible for establishing PSP in the female rat.

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