The role of the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN) region in the control of seasonal prolactin (PRL) responses was investigated in female Siberian hamsters via disruption of PVN afferent connections from the region of the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). Adult female hamsters received sham surgery or horizontal knife cuts placed ventral to the PVN so as to sever dorsally projecting fibers from the SCN and were either immediately transferred to a short-day photoperiod [10 h light: 14 h dark (10L: 14D); experiment (exp.) 1A] or returned to the long-day photoperiod (16L:8D; exp. 1B and 2). Serial blood samples were analyzed for determination of circulating PRL and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH; exp. 1 A) levels at various time points after surgery. In exp. 1 A, sham-operated animals showed a steady decline in circulating levels of both PRL and FSH during exposure to 10L. Animals with knife cuts that passed through the extent of the SCN were prevented from showing declines in PRL and FSH during exposure to 10L. Animals with knife cuts located ventral to or through the PVN but dorsal to the SCN maintained high FSH levels during short-day exposure but showed a decline in PRL. Similarly, animals with knife cuts in exp. IB and 2 showed a decline in circulating PRL despite continued exposure to a stimulatory photoperiod. In exp. 2, the efficacy of a dopaminergic agonist (CB154) and an antagonist (pimozide) in altering circulating PRL under the 16L photoperiod was evaluated. CB154 induced declines in PRL in knife-cut but not sham-operated animals, whereas administration of pimozide elevated circulating PRL in both groups. These results suggest that disruption of afferent input to the PVN region may result in reductions in circulating PRL independently of the photoperiodic regulation of this hormone, and via mechanisms other than increased dopaminergic tone, i.e., possibly through disruption of a hypothalamic PRL-stimulating system.

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