Beta-endorphin, but not oxytocin, substance p or vasoactive-intestinal polypeptide, contributes to progesterone-induced prolactin secretion in monkeys

Melanie Pecins-Thompson, Andrea A. Widmann, Cynthia L. Bethea

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    8 Scopus citations


    Progesterone (P) stimulates prolactin secretion through a neural mechanism in estrogen (E)-primed female monkeys. Several peptides, including β-endorphin (BE), oxytocin (OT), substance P (SP) and vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) are potential prolactin stimulatory factors and could mediate the effect of P. We hypothesized that the antagonism of a pivotal peptidergic neural system would block P-induced prolactin secretion and that the function of a pivotal peptidergic system would be altered by changes in gonadal steroid concentrations. Therefore it was of interest (1) to examine the effect of infusion of antagonists to these peptides on P-induced prolactin secretion, and (2) to determine BE, OT, SP and VIP levels in the hypothalamus of monkeys of various reproductive states. For the antagonist studies, female monkeys (n = 8) were spayed, adapted to a vest and tether remote sampling system and catheterized prior to antagonist challenges. E-primed monkeys received P injections 48 h prior to antagonist administration. Prolactin increased within 36-48 h of P injection. All antagonist challenges were administered in varying doses during the P-induced prolactin elevation and blood samples were collected every 10 min for prolactin determinations. The opiate antagonist, naloxone (n = 5), reduced serum prolactin in a dose-related manner with a mean IC50 of 1.5 ± 0.6 μg/kg/min. The OT (n = 4), SP (n = 4) or VIP (n = 4) antagonists did not reduce serum prolactin in a dose-related manner. We previously reported that the hypothalamic content of OT is increased by ovarian hormones. To determine whether the hypothalamic content of BE, SP or VIP was related to gonadal status, the peptide levels in 4 hypothalamic regions of monkeys in various physiological states were measured. BE (ng/mg protein) in the medial basal hypothalamus (MBH) was significantly greater in adult females (17.7 ± 6.9; n = 6) as compared to spayed females (0.6 ± 0.2; n = 3) andjuvenile females (1.8 ± 1.1; n = 3). Hypothalamic content of SP in the preoptic area and mammillary bodies, but not the MBH, was significantly greater in gonadal intact females than spayed females. VIP content (pg/mg protein) was not significantly different between adult, spayed and juvenile females nor between adult and juvenile males in any hypothalamic area. Taken together these results support a pivotal role for BE in the neural regulation of P-induced prolactin secretion. The involvement of OT, SP, and VIP in a specific manner at the pituitary level is not indicated.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)569-578
    Number of pages10
    Issue number6
    StatePublished - 1996


    • Beta-endorphin
    • Gonadal steroids
    • Monkey
    • Naloxone
    • Oxytocin
    • Progesterone
    • Prolactin
    • Substance P
    • Vasoactive intestinal peptide

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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