The phasic luteinizing hormone (LH) release observed in ovariectomized (OVX), estrogen-implanted rats was further amplified and advanced when progesterone (P) was given 4 h prior to the gonadotropin surge. In contrast, an inhibitory effect of P on the daily LH surge was observed when P was administered 16–36 h prior to LH peak. In order to determine whether this biphasic action of P is primarily exerted on the release of luteinizing hormone releasing hormone (LHRH), on the pituitary response to LHRH, or on both, mediobasal hypothalamic slices or pituitary fragments of adult OVX rats or of OVX rats pretreated with estrogen alone or in combination with P were tested in a perifusion system. Mediobasal hypothalamic slices were perifused in buffered (pH 7.2) oxygenated Locke’s medium containing bacitracin (2 × 10–5 M). In the absence of estrogen pretreatment, high (56 mM) concentrations of K+ were barely effective in releasing LHRH. Subcutaneous implantation of 17β-estradiol for 5 days markedly increased the amplitude of the LHRH secretory response to K+ depolarization. Additional administration of P (25 mg/rat s.c.) 4 h before sacrifice further amplified the K+-induced LHRH release. In contrast, the K+-evoked LHRH secretion was significantly inhibited when P was given 16 or 36 h before. Estradiol thus appears to facilitate the LHRH secretory response to depolarizing stimuli, whereas P either enhances or blocks the induced LHRH release depending upon its time of administration. At the pituitary level, the sensitivity of LHRH-induced LH release was also increased after estrogen pretreatment. P either enhanced the effect 4 h after its administration or completely inhibited it after 16 or 36 h. These results suggest that parallel interactions of the steroid at the level of both LHRH neurons and the pituitary may account for their in vivo effects.

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