Receptors for dopamine and the subcellular localization of dopamine in the anterior pituitary gland were studied in young cycling female rats and in aged, constant estrous female rats. Dopamine receptors were quantified in membrane preparations of anterior pituitary tissue using [3H] spiperone as the ligand. On the basis of saturation isotherms, it was calculated that the equilibrium dissociation constant (Kd) and binding capacity for [3H] spiperone binding to pituitary membranes from young rats were 34.2 pM and 82 fmol/mg protein, respectively. The relative binding capacity of membranes from aged rats was 35% greater than that of membranes from young rats. There was no difference in the Kd values in aged and young rats. When the relative binding of [3H] spiperone by anterior pituitary membranes from individual animals was quantified by incubation with a’ saturating concentration of the ligand, it was found that [3H] spiperone binding in aged rats was significantly greater than that in young rats. When the subcellular localization of dopamine in anterior pituitary tissue was examined by means of density gradient centrifugation, it was found that the subcellular distribution of dopamine in tissue of aged rats was quantitatively different from that in young rats. In young rats, a small amount of dopamine was associated with light particles, whereas a large amount of dopamine was associated with heavy particles, which cosedimented with PRL-containing granules. In aged rats, the amount of dopamine associated with light particles was 5 times that found in young rats, whereas the amount of dopamine associated with heavy particles was the same as that in young rats. We speculate that altered intracellular compartmentalization of dopamine, leading to a marked accumulation of dopamine in the light particles, is related to increased secretion of PRL in aged rats.
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