Effect of the pretreatment with prolactin on the distribution of immunoreactive beta-endorphin through different ovarian compartments in immature, superovulated rats

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SummaryBeta-endorphin and prolactin (PRL) are natural inhibitors of ovulation via central and peripheral mechanisms, but their possible interactions within the ovary are still unknown. The aims of the present study were to determine the gene expression and the topographic distribution of beta-endorphin, and the possible changes evoked by the pretreatment with PRL on the ovarian beta-endorphin localization in immature, superovulated rats. Prepuberal female Wistar rats weighing 60–70 g were superovulated with 20 IU equine gonadotrophins and, 48 h later, 20 IU human chorionic gonalotropin (hCG). Four hours after the hCG injection, the rats received either 200 μg rat PRL i.p. (n = 12) or saline vehicle (n = 10). In the following morning the rats were killed and their ovaries were quickly removed. Beta-endorphin localization was assessed by immunohistochemistry and proopiomelanocortin (POMC) mRNA was detected by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Beta-endorphin was expressed mostly in the corpora lutea and perivascular stroma, but a weak to moderate immunostaining was also present in the theca cells and some granulosa cells of tertiary/antral and preovulatory follicles. The main differences observed in the distribution of ovarian beta-endorphin between the two groups were a more intense immunostaining in the granulosa cells of antral follicles, corpus luteum and stroma of PRL-treated rats. POMC gene transcripts were detected in 2/5 samples from the control group and in 3/7 samples from the PRL-treated group. Thus, the expression of beta-endorphin in tertiary/antral follicles is enhanced by PRL treatment in immature, superovulated rats, providing a putative mechanism by which PRL could inhibit the ovarian response to induced ovulation.

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