Early postnatal development of pituitary intermediate lobe control in the rat by dopamine neurons

M. Duff Davis, Walter Lichiensteiger, Margret Schlumpf, Arend Bruinink

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57 Scopus citations


In fetal and postnatal rats, serum melanophore-stimulating hormone (MSH) levels, pituitary 3H-spiperone binding, pituitary catecholamine content, and other parameters were measured to characterize the development of pars intermedia pituitary control by the tubero-hypophyseal dopamine system. Bioassay of serum for MSH revealed low but significant levels 6 days before birth (gestational day 17), rising to a peak 4 days after birth (postnatal day 5). Levels declined after PN 6, reached a low 2 weeks after birth, and then rose gradually throughout the next several weeks until adult values were attained. From excised pituitaries, significant catecholamine fluorescence in the neurointermediate lobe was first demonstrated on the 2nd postnatal day, with the highest density of fibers being attained at 2 weeks afterbirth. Thereafter, the density of terminals decreased in the pars intermedia until the adult pattern of innervation was observed at day 60. Total dopamine content of the neurointermediate lobe roughly paralleled the morphological observations through the first 2 weeks after birth. Later, content was seen to stabilize, while concentration decreased in line with the reduction in terminal density. Dopamine levels exceeded norepinephrine concentration by a factor of 10. ’H-spiperone binding sites were present in the pituitary before birth. Their density increased rapidly in the neurointermediate lobe during the first 2 postnatal weeks, then diminished until adult densities were reached at day 30. Binding in the anterior pituitary slowly rose throughout the first 30 days after birth, although values were only about one-quarter of that found in the neurointermediate lobe. In vitro incubation of neurointermediate lobes with dopamine showed a dose-dependent inhibition of spontaneous MSH secretion as early as 2 days after birth. Blockade of dopaminergic binding sites by i.p. administration of cis-flupenthixol (1 mg/kg) to rat pups had no effect until days 8, 15, and 22 where there was a significant rise in serum MSH levels as compared with controls. These data indicate that the intermediate lobe is responsive to dopamine at around birth, while the inhibitory dopaminergic control develops only during the 1st postnatal week, in conjunction with marked changes in circulating MSH levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1984


  • Catecholamines
  • Dopamine
  • Dopamine receptor
  • Melanophore-stimulating hormone (MSH)
  • Norepinephrine
  • Pars intermedia
  • Tubero-hypophyseal dopamine system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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