Expression of the long form of the prolactin receptor in magnocellular oxytocin neurons is associated with specific prolactin regulation of oxytocin neurons

I C Kokay, P M Bull, R L Davis, M Ludwig, D R Grattan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Magnocellular neurons of the supraoptic (SON) and paraventricular nuclei (PVN) show considerable plasticity during pregnancy and lactation. Prolactin receptors (PRL-R) have been identified in both these nuclei. The aim of this study was to investigate the cell type(s) expressing mRNA for the long form of prolactin receptor (PRL-R(L)) and to determine whether patterns of expression change during pregnancy and lactation. In addition, we examined effects of prolactin on excitability of oxytocin and vasopressin neurons. Sections from brains of nonpregnant, pregnant, and lactating rats were hybridized with an 35S-labeled probe to label PRL-R(L) mRNA together with digoxigenin-labeled probes to detect either oxytocin or vasopressin mRNA. In the SON, PRL-R(L) mRNA was predominantly colocalized with oxytocin mRNA, with over 80% of oxytocin neurons positive for PRL-R(L) mRNA. Very few (<10%) vasopressin neurons expressed PRL-R(L) mRNA. In the PVN, PRL-R(L) mRNA was also predominantly found in oxytocin neurons, and the proportion of PRL-R(L)-positive oxytocin neurons increased significantly during pregnancy and lactation. As in the SON, relatively few vasopressin cells contained PRL-R(L) mRNA. For in vivo electrophysiology, nonpregnant rats were anesthetized, and then extracellular single neuron activity was recorded in identified oxytocin and vasopressin neurons. After a period of baseline recording, the effect of prolactin (1 microg i.c.v.) on firing rate was examined. Prolactin treatment of nonpregnant rats induced a significant decrease in firing rates of oxytocin neurons. There was no effect of prolactin on the activity of vasopressin neurons. Together, these data provide strong evidence that prolactin directly and specifically regulates activity of oxytocin neurons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)R1216-25
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2006

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Animals
  • Autoradiography
  • Basal Nucleus of Meynert
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Electrophysiology
  • Female
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Lactation
  • Neurons
  • Oxytocin
  • Paraventricular Hypothalamic Nucleus
  • Pregnancy
  • Prolactin
  • RNA Probes
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, Prolactin
  • Supraoptic Nucleus


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