The role of PRL in the control of catecholaminergic hypothalamic neurons of female rats was investigated. The in situ activity of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) in neurites of these neurons was assayed by measuring the rate of accumulation of L-3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA) in the median eminence (ME) after the administration of a DOPA decarboxylase inhibitor. The mass of TH was measured by an immunoblot assay using rat TH as the standard. Hyperprolactinemia was induced by pituitaries implanted beneath a renal capsule. Hyperprolactinemia resulted in a significant increase in the in situ activity of TH without an increase in TH mass. The release of dopamine from hypothalamic neurons was assessed by measuring the concentration of dopamine in hypophysial portal plasma. The mean concentration of dopamine in portal plasma of rats bearing pituitary implants was 3 times that in controls. When circulating PRL was neutralized by administration of antiserum against rat PRL, the activity of TH was reduced significantly compared to that in animals treated with preimmune serum. In animals bearing pituitary implants, phosphorylation of TH in the ME was not different from that in control animals. We conclude that the biosynthetic and secretory activities of dopaminergic neurons of the hypothalamus are potentiated by PRL, but the potentiation is not due to an increase in the mass of TH or to the capacity of the neurites of the ME to phosphorylate TH.
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