Catecholamine levels in hypophysial portal plasma were determined in pregnant and non-pregnant female rats as well as in intact and castrated male rats, using a radioenzymatic assay for the simultaneous determination of dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine in 50μl of plasma. Portal and arterial blood were collected from anesthetized rats at 7μl/min for 60 min. During the collection, blood was kept at 0 C, a temperature at which endogenous catecholamines were relatively stable. Dopamine was present in high concentrations in hypophysial portal plasma throughout pregnancy, attaining a level near 20 ng/ml on the 20th day of gestation. Dopamine levels in arterial plasma from the same rats were low or undetectable (0.4–0.8 ng/ml). Norepinephrine and epinephrine were undetectable (<0.6 ng/ml) in portal as well as arterial plasma from these rats. The major catecholamine in extracts of the hypothalamus from pregnant rats was norepinephrine, whereas that in the posterior pituitary was dopamine. Dopamine levels in portal plasma collected during proestrus, estrus, diestrus 1, and diestrus 2 were 1.32 ± 0.21 (mean ± SE), 3.87 ± 0.96, 3.11 ± 0.73, and 2.3 ± 0.45, respectively. Dopamine in portal plasma from intact and from castrated male rats was approximately 0.6 ng/ml. Norepinephrine and epinephrine were not detectable in either portal or arterial plasma from these animals. It is concluded 1) that dopamine is secreted into hypophysial portal blood in significant quantities during pregnancy, 2) that hypothalamic secretion of dopamine in cyclic rats is greatest during the day of estrus and early diestrus and least on the day of proestrus, and 3) that these findings support the view that dopamine of hypothalamic origin may have an important role in the regulation of anterior pituitary function.
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