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In the female rat, a complex interplay of both stimulatory and inhibitory hypothalamic factors controls the secretion of prolactin. Prolactin regulates a large number of physiological processes from immunity to stress. Here, we have chosen to focus on the control of prolactin secretion in the female rat in response to suckling, mating and ovarian steroids. In all three of these states, dopamine, released from neurones in the mediobasal hypothalamus, is a potent inhibitory signal regulating prolactin secretion. Early research has determined that the relief of dopaminergic tone is not sufficent to account for the full surge of prolactin secretion observed in response to the suckling stimulus, launching a search for possible prolactin-releasing factors. This research has subsequently broadened to include searching for prolactin-releasing factors controlling prolactin secretion after mating or ovarian steroids. A great deal of literature has suggested that this prolactin-releasing factor may include oxytocin. Oxytocin receptors are present on lactotrophs. These oxytocin receptors respond to exogenous oxytocin and antagonism of endogenous oxytocin inhibits lactotroph activity. In addition, the pattern of oxytocin neuronal activity and oxytocin release correlate with the release of prolactin. Here, we suggest not only that oxytocin is stimulating prolactin secretion, but also that prolactin secretion is controlled by a complex network of positive (oxytocin) and negative (dopamine) feedback loops. We discuss the available literature and attempt to describe the circuitry we believe may be responsible for controlling prolactin secretion. © 2011 The Authors. Journal of Neuroendocrinology © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


J E Kennett, D T McKee. Oxytocin: an emerging regulator of prolactin secretion in the female rat. Journal of neuroendocrinology. 2012 Mar;24(3):403-12

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PMID: 22129099

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