The influence of naloxone on the release in limbic brain areas of both oxytocin (OXT) and vasopressin, measured by radioimmunoassay, was studied in conscious parturient rats. Three consecutive 30-min push-pull perfusions (20 µl artificial CSF/ min) were made, via previously implanted guide cannulae, within the medio-lateral septum and dorsal hippocampus of parturient animals given saline or naloxone hydrochloride (5 mg/kg body weight) after delivery of the second pup. OXT release in the hippocampus, but not in the septum, was increased during parturition, compared to day 1 post partum. During the first 30-min collection period following naloxone administration, release of OXT was significantly elevated within the septum (445% compared to saline controls, p < 0.002), but not in the dorsal hippocampus; vasopressin release was not affected. In contrast, on day 1 post partum, naloxone, administered 5 min after starting two consecutive perfusions failed to alter OXT release in septum or hippocampus in conscious rats. Naloxone, known to increase the release of OXT also from the posterior pituitary during parturition, speeded the parturition process significantly between the birth of pups 4 and 8 during push-pull perfusion of septum or hippocampus. The data suggest that endogenous opioid inhibition is involved in the regulation of central OXT release, but not vasopressin release, during parturition. Together with previous studies on OXT release from the posterior pituitary, it seems that during parturition there is coordinated endogenous opioid action on the release of OXT both into blood and into the brain.

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