Suckling-induced Fos-immunoreactivity in subgroups of hypothalamic POMC neurons of the lactating rat: investigation of a role for prolactin.J Neuroendocrinol. 1996 May; 8(5):375-86.JN
Attention has recently been focused on lactation-induced modifications of activity of neuronal populations in the arcuate nucleus (ARC) of the mediobasal hypothalamus. The ARC hosts the tubero-infundibular dopaminergic (TIDA system) responsible for the neuroendocrine control of prolactin (PRL), and other non-neuroendocrine neuronal populations, such as neuropeptide Y (NPY)- and proopiomelanocortin (POMC)-containing systems that are important modulators of hypothalamic gonadoliberin (GnRH) secretion. Our longstanding interest in the functional anatomy of the ARC led us to investigate whether the suckling stimulus would trigger an expression of Fos-ir in specific arcuate neuronal populations and to possibly characterize responsive neurons by using double-labeling immunohistochemistry. Freely nursing lactating females expressed strong Fos-ir in neurons of the ARC compared to diestrous females. Fos-ir was encountered in neurons not belonging to the TIDA system and that was for a large proportion identical to the POMCergic neurons. We showed that, in lactating females submitted to suppression of the suckling stimulus by removal of the pups, the pattern of expression of Fos-ir is similar to that seen in diestrous females and that, a pattern of expression of Fos-ir indistinguishable from that observed during free lactation is reinstated a short time after the return of the pups and restoration of the suckling stimulus, suggesting that this expression of Fos-ir strictly depends upon the presence of the newborns and the suckling stimulus. By lowering circulating levels of the PRL with bromocryptine-or PRL antiserum-treatment, we noticed a decrease in the number of (beta-endorphin + Fos)-ir neurons compared to non-injected freely nursing lactating females. By maintaining high levels of circulating PRL with haloperidol-treatment, we observed a number of colocalizations close to that observed in freely nursing lactating females. Our results suggest that during lactation a rostral subgroup of the arcuate POMCergic neuronal population is activated at least partially in response to the suckling-induced secretion of PRL and that this activation participates in maintaining the endocrine and/or metabolic demands of the lactational status.