The model of the serum PRL surge generated in the ovariectomized rat after estradiol benzoate (EB) treatment was used to study the relationship between serum and pituitary PRL levels and pituitary PRL mRNA levels. Adult ovariectomized rats were injected sc with 7 µg EB or vehicle at noon on day 0. Three days later (day 3), the rats were decapitated every 4 h over a 24-h period (0800 h on day 3 to 0400 h on day 4) for determination of serum and pituitary PRL and GH levels by RIA. In addition, PRL and GH mRNA content was determined using dot blot hybridization with cDNAs. Administration of EB resulted in a significant rise in serum PRL levels at 1200, 1600, and 2000 h on day 3 compared to control values. At other times, serum PRL levels in the EB group were the same as control values. EB treatment also elicited a marked increase in pituitary PRL content at all time periods examined except during (1600 and 2000 h) and after the PRL surge (2400 h on day 3) when there was a significant reduction in stored pituitary PRL. The pituitary PRL mRNA content in the EB-treated group was significantly elevated (4- to 6-fold) over control levels throughout the study. Furthermore, PRL mRNA levels in EB-treated rats were significantly higher at 2000 and 2400 h on day 3 than at other time periods. In contrast to its effects on PRL, EB treatment had a slight inhibitory effect on pituitary GH content at 2000 and 2400 h on day 3 compared to control values; otherwise, this steroid had no effect on serum GH levels and pituitary GH mRNA content. Interestingly, serum GH levels and pituitary GH mRNA content in both treatment and control groups fluctuated in a pattern consistent with circadian rhythms, with peak values occurring during the lights-on hours. These data show that estrogen has a stimulatory effect on pituitary content of PRL and its corresponding mRNA in the rat 3 days after injection. These elevated PRL mRNA levels may be necessary for the occurrence of PRL surges. Furthermore, the facts that serum PRL levels were elevated only at certain times (1200–2000 h on day 3) while PRL mRNA content was increased at all times in the EB-treated rats suggest a differential regulation between PRL release and biosynthesis.
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