Opioidergic modulation of the oestradiol-induced LH surge in the rat: roles of ovarian steroids

J Endocrinol. 1988 Jan;116(1):55-69. doi: 10.1677/joe.0.1160055.


Sex steroids convey information on the status of the reproductive system, which the brain is able to integrate to promote ovulation, in the form of the LH surge. The present studies examined the influence of alterations in central opioidergic tone to initiate the LH surge, and the roles of oestradiol and progesterone to effect changes in opioidergic tone, by antagonizing this activity using either naloxone or nalmefene (N-cyclopropylmethyl-6-desoxy-6-methylene-noroxy-morphone), a long-acting mu- and kappa-opiate antagonist. The timing and amplitude of the LH surge was examined in (1) cyclic rats in pro-oestrus and (2) ovariectomized rats with varying doses of oestradiol supplementation. Plasma was obtained hourly through an indwelling intra-atrial catheter between 13.00 and 19.00 h, and later assayed for LH and oestradiol concentrations by radioimmunoassay. Rats treated with either nalmefene or progesterone on pro-oestrus demonstrated similar advances in the time of initiation of the LH surge by 1-2 h compared with control rats. The effects of nalmefene and progesterone were evident within 2 and 3-5 h of their administration respectively. Conversely, rats treated with progesterone on dioestrus demonstrated low pro-oestrous oestradiol levels and abolition of the pro-oestrous LH surge, but continuous naloxone infusion restored the pro-oestrous LH surge, with raised oestradiol concentrations. In ovariectomized rats without oestradiol supplentation, nalmefene alone was able to increase basal LH levels, but unable to facilitate a spontaneous rise in LH amplitude indicative of an LH surge. Supplementation with low doses of oestradiol was itself ineffective in facilitating a spontaneous rise in LH concentration, but nalmefene co-administration significantly potentiated the ability of low doses of oestradiol to induce augmented LH secretion, in addition to advancing the timing of the spontaneous LH rise. Similarly, progesterone co-administration to ovariectomized, oestradiol-primed rats significantly advanced and augmented LH hypersecretion. The results of these experiments are consistent with the concept that central opioidergic systems normally restrain the initiation of the LH surge, and that blocking opiate receptors removes this inhibition. They advance the hypothesis that oestradiol, the essential signal for LH surge induction, has, as one consequence of its action, the time-specific inhibition of hypothalamic opiodergic tone in the afternoon, which would otherwise restrain the LH surge-generating mechanism.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diestrus / drug effects
  • Estradiol / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Luteinizing Hormone / blood*
  • Naloxone / pharmacology*
  • Naltrexone / analogs & derivatives*
  • Naltrexone / pharmacology
  • Ovariectomy
  • Proestrus / drug effects
  • Progesterone / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains


  • Naloxone
  • Progesterone
  • Estradiol
  • Naltrexone
  • Luteinizing Hormone
  • nalmefene