Tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) mRNA in tuberoinfundibular dopamine (TIDA) neurons is suppressed during lactation but rebounds upon pup removal. A time course of TH mRNA changes after pup removal revealed three phases: (1) a nuclear phase (evident 1.5 hours after pup removal, maximal at 3 hours) with TH mRNA appearing in 1 or 2 nuclear loci with little or no change in cytoplasmic mRNA; (2) a cytoplasmic phase (noted 6 hours after pup removal, peaked 12-24 hours) with a significant increase in total TH mRNA levels mainly in the cytoplasm; and (3) a stabilization phase (24-48 hours after pup removal) when nuclear signals were low and cytoplasmic RNA showed a slight decline with extension of RNA clusters into the cell dendrites. In rats whose pups could suckle only on one side, TH was up-regulated only on the side contralateral to nipple blockade. These data indicate that after suckling terminates, TH up-regulation is evident at 1.5 hours, but 6 hours is needed before the cells transport sufficient mRNA into the cytoplasm. The rapid signaling of TH up-regulation stems from the fact that the TIDA neurons respond to neural signals from termination of suckling.