Hypothalamic targets for prolactin: assessment of c-Fos induction in tyrosine hydroxylase- and proopiomelanocortin-containing neurones in the rat arcuate nucleus following acute central prolactin administration.Neuroendocrinology. 2001 Dec; 74(6):386-95.N
Prolactin (PRL) has been implicated in central actions including those that result in its own regulation and/or the suppression of gonadotropin secretion. It is not clear, however, which neuronal systems may mediate the central effects of PRL. Here, using dual immunohistochemistry for c-Fos and either tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) or proopiomelanocortin (POMC), we have assessed neuronal activation, following centrally administered PRL, within two neuronal networks that have been shown to participate in the inhibitory regulation of reproductive function. Male rats received one intracerebroventricular injection of either PRL (5 microg) or saline (vehicle control) 5 days after cannulae were inserted into the lateral ventricles. Ninety minutes after treatment, animals were perfused with 4% paraformaldehyde, the brains were removed and 30-microm frozen sections were cut throughout the entire hypothalamic region. Parallel sets of sections were processed for both c-Fos immunoreactivity (ir) and either TH-ir or POMC-ir. PRL increased the mean number of c-Fos-ir neurons within the rostral arcuate nucleus (9.3 +/- 2.0 vs. 5.0 +/- 1.2 cells/section, for PRL and control rats, respectively; p < 0.05). Within the TH-ir neurones, PRL induced a significant increase in c-Fos in the dorsomedial portion of the mid-arcuate nucleus (p < 0.05). In contrast, there was no significant increase in the expression of c-Fos within the POMC neurones of the arcuate nucleus. PRL also induced c-Fos expression in the supraoptic nucleus (SON) (11.7 +/- 3.2 vs. 3.0 +/- 1.4 cells/section for PRL and control rats, respectively; p < 0.05), but not in the medial preoptic nucleus, ventromedial nucleus or the dorsomedial nucleus, areas reported to either contain gonadotropin-releasing hormone neurones or express PRL receptors. The results from this study show immediate early gene activation within both the arcuate nucleus and the SON of the hypothalamus following acute PRL administration. While the role of PRL-responsive neurones in the SON remains to be elucidated, these findings support the notion that the central actions of PRL could be mediated via the TH neurones of the dorsomedial arcuate nucleus and/or by a population of neurones in the rostral arcuate nucleus that contain neither TH nor POMC.