Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science


Molecular Cellular and Systemic Physiology

First Advisor

Arbogast, Lydia


Lactation is the final stage of reproduction in mammals and is characterized by chronically elevated prolactin and suppressed luteinizing hormone. The neuroendocrine regulation of prolactin and luteinizing hormone during lactation are not fully understood. In the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus is a population of neurons known as KNDy neurons because they co-express the neuropeptides Kisspeptin, Neurokinin B and Dynorphin. These neurons are known to project to gonadotropin-releasing hormone cell bodes in the preoptic area and nerve terminals in the median eminence, which regulate the secretion of luteinizing hormone, and to dopaminergic tuberoinfundibular neurons in the arcuate nucleus, which are known to regulate prolactin. Because KNDy neurons project to neuronal populations known to regulate both prolactin and luteinizing hormone, the general hypothesis for these studies is that neuropeptides Kisspeptin, Neurokinin B and Dynorphin play a role in regulating these hormones or are regulated by these hormones during lactation. In a model of lactating rats deprived of their pups for 24 hours, intracerebroventricular injection of an endogenous Kisspeptin receptor ligand, Kp-10, modestly increased prolactin secretion and markedly increased luteinizing hormone secretion. Neither Neurokinin B nor the Neurokinin B receptor agonist, Senktide, had a significant effect on either hormone in this rat model. Dynorphin and U-50,488, a kappa opioid receptor agonist, robustly increased prolactin although no changes were measured in luteinizing hormone levels. In this model of 24-hour pup-deprived lactating rats, prolactin was responsive to kappa opioid receptor agonists and luteinizing hormone was responsive to Kisspeptin receptor agonists. In a second set of experiments, sense and anti-sense in situ hybridization probes were developed for Kiss1, the Kisspeptin gene, and Tac2, the gene encoding Neurokinin B. It was confirmed that the cDNA sequences cloned for these mRNAs were correct and were highly homologous to published rat mRNA sequences. In situ hybridization was performed using the Kiss1 and Tac2 probes, as well as a probe for Pdyn, which encodes Dynorphin. No specific cytoplasmic signal was observed using any of the three sense probes. With the anti-sense probes, clusters of reduced silver grains representing Kiss1, Tac2 and Pdyn mRNAs were observed in the arcuate nucleus, lateral to the third ventricle and superior to the median eminence. These expression patterns were consistent with the published literature. Also, the expression patterns for all three neuropeptides were similar to each other, suggesting that many of the arcuate nucleus neurons lateral to the third ventricle and superior to the median eminence are KNDy neurons.




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