The pars tuberalis (PT) is a distinct subdivision of the anterior pituitary gland that plays a central role in regulating seasonal prolactin release. In sheep, there is compelling evidence that seasonal changes in light, transformed into a melatonin signal, are interpreted by the PT to modulate the release of a factor which affects prolactin release. The identity of this factor(s) is unknown but has been preemptively called ‘tuberalin’. In the present study, we report on an initial immunocytochemical investigation where we have identified that many ovine PT cells are immunoreactive for the tachykinin substance P (SP). Few cells in the pars distalis immunoreact for SP. The SP-immunoreactive cells did not colocalize with β-luteinizing hormone. RT-PCR confirmed the presence of preprotachykinin A mRNA in the PT. We hypothesize that SP, and possibly other preprotachykinin A-derived tachykinins, may play a role in the seasonal regulation of prolactin secretion in sheep.

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