Pregnant rats were kept on an ethanol-containing (6% w/v) liquid diet from the 13th day of gestation and serum growth hormone (GH) levels were determined in the offspring after four different experimental paradigms. In controls, administration of cyproheptadine (a serotonin-blocking agent), or insulin, or exposure to cold, caused decreases in the levels of serum GH, whereas dopamine-induced inhibition in GH release was observed only in 10-day-old rats. In contrast, among neonates exposed continuously to ethanol, only cyproheptadine produced decreases in serum GH levels similar to controls. In these ethanol-treated animals, insulin hypoglycemia, cold exposure, or dopamine-induced reductions in serum GH levels were not seen. Withdrawal from ethanol at birth produced similar GH responses to cyproheptadine, cold exposure, and dopamine as those observed in neonatal rats exposed continuously to ethanol. A delayed GH-lowering effect of insulin was observed in the withdrawal group indicating that these neurochemical changes may depend on the duration of exposure. The basal GH levels were altered also after ethanol exposure. These data would be consistent with the hypothesis that maternal ethanol ingestion causes an alteration in biogenic amines regulation of secretion of GH in the offspring.

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