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Oxytocin neurone activation at birth depends upon noradrenaline-mediated signals from the uterus via a brainstem pathway, as well as on factors within the supraoptic nucleus (SON), including oxytocin itself, and the system adapts during pregnancy to optimise the delivery process. We determined whether noradrenaline release in the SON in response to stimuli activating brainstem inputs or antidromically activating magnocellular neurones is enhanced at term pregnancy. Noradrenaline, serotonin and dopamine concentrations were measured in microdialysis samples collected from the dorsal and ventral SON before, during and after either i.v. cholecystokinin (CCK) or neural stalk stimulation in virgin and late pregnant rats. Each stimulus transiently increased noradrenaline and serotonin but not dopamine concentration in the dorsal SON, and responses were increased on days 21 and 22 of pregnancy compared to day 20 pregnant and virgin rats. Neural stalk stimulation induced sensitisation to subsequent stalk stimulation and so the responses in the dorsal SON were doubled; on day 22 of pregnancy, the area under the curve of monoamine concentration was 3.4-fold greater than in virgins, suggesting that adaptations perinatally enhance responsiveness. In conclusion, there are enhanced responses of noradrenaline and serotonin release in the SON that can generate very high, transient extracellular concentrations at term. This may be a consequence of neuroendocrine adaptations in late pregnancy and probably contributes to optimal oxytocin neurone activation during parturition.
- neural stalk stimulation
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