Alpha-oestrogen and progestin receptor expression in the hypothalamus and preoptic area dopaminergic neurones during oestrous in cycling rats

J Neuroendocrinol. 2008 Jan;20(1):110-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2826.2007.01624.x.


A secretory surge of prolactin occurs on the afternoon of oestrous in cycling rats. Although prolactin is regulated by ovarian steroids, plasma oestradiol and progesterone levels do not vary during oestrous. Because prolactin release is tonically inhibited by hypothalamic dopamine and modulated by dopamine transmission in the preoptic area (POA), the present study aimed to evaluate whether oestrogen receptor (ER)-alpha and progestin receptor (PR) expression in the dopaminergic neurones of arcuate (ARC), periventricular, anteroventral periventricular (AVPe) and ventromedial preoptic (VMPO) nuclei changes during the day of oestrous. Cycling rats were perfused every 2 h from 10-20 h on oestrous. Brain sections were double-labelled to ERalpha or PR and tyrosine hydroxylase (TH). The number of TH-immunoreactive (ir) neurones did not vary significantly in any area evaluated. ERalpha expression in TH-ir neurones increased at 14 and 16 h in the rostral-ARC and dorsomedial-ARC, 14 h in the caudal-ARC and 16 h in the VMPO, whereas it was unaltered in the ventrolateral-ARC, periventricular and AVPe. PR expression in TH-ir neurones of the periventricular and rostral, dorsomedial, ventrolateral and caudal-ARC decreased transitorily during the afternoon, showing the lowest levels between 14 and 16 h; but it did not vary in the AVPe and VMPO. Plasma oestradiol and progesterone concentrations were low and unaltered during oestrous, indicating that the changes in receptors expression were probably not due to variation in ligand levels. Thus, our data suggest that variations in ERalpha and PR expression may promote changes in the activity of medial basal hypothalamus and POA dopaminergic neurones, even under unaltered secretion of ovarian steroids, which could facilitate the occurrence and modulate the magnitude of the prolactin surge on oestrous.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha / metabolism*
  • Estrous Cycle / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism*
  • Models, Biological
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Preoptic Area / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptors, Progesterone / metabolism*
  • Time Factors


  • Estrogen Receptor alpha
  • Receptors, Progesterone
  • Dopamine