The Harderian glands of golden hamsters contain high concentrations of porphyrin pigments, with female hamsters having considerably higher porphyrin concentrations than males. Castration of male hamsters leads to a rapid increase in porphyrin concentrations; testosterone treatment of females has the opposite effect, suggesting a central role for androgens in inhibiting the realization of high porphyrin concentrations by this organ. Previous studies in our laboratories have shown, however, that administration of a dopamine agonist to castrated hamsters prevents the normal increase in Harderian porphyrins from occurring. This suggests that prolactin is necessary for low androgen levels to lead to maximal increases in Harderian porphyrin concentrations. The present study tested the hypothesis that prolactin is involved in the control of Harderian porphyrin levels in the golden hamster. Although hypophysectomy of male hamsters reduced serum testosterone to levels in castrated hamsters, the resultant increase in Harderian porphyrin concentrations was much less than that seen after a similar period of castration. Furthermore, combining the two procedures (castration and hypophysectomy) also led to a blunted increase in Harderian porphyrin, suggesting that a pituitary hormone is necessary for low testosterone levels to lead to increased porphyrins. Evidence that this pituitary hormone is prolactin comes from the observations that eliminating all pituitary hormones except prolactin, by severing the connection of the pituitary with the hypothalamus or transplanting the pituitary to a distant site (beneath the kidney capsule) led to greatly augmented Harderian porphyrin levels, in intact or castrated male hamsters. Hyperprolactinaemia in female hamsters did not counter the effects of testosterone in reducing Harderian porphyrin concentrations, suggesting that, although prolactin is needed for porphyrin production in a low androgen milieu, it does not stimulate porphyrin maintenance when testosterone levels are increased.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism