The effect of dexamethasone (DEX) treatment (400 and 200 μg/kg BW 21 and 2 h before suckling stimulus, respectively) on suckling- and domperidone (DOMP)-induced PRL release was investigated in freely moving, primiparous lactating rats. DEX completely blocked suckling-induced plasma PRL release without affecting DOMP-induced release of the hormone suggesting a central action of DEX. The effect was transient because it could not be detected on the second day of testing. The effect of DEX implanted in three different brain areas on suckling- and DOMP-induced PRL release was also tested. Implants surrounding the hypothalamic paraventricular nuclei and dorsal hippocampus failed to affect PRL release induced by suckling stimulus. Surprisingly, DEX suppressed PRL release induced by suckling stimulus when it was implanted into the medial basal hypothalamus. These findings demonstrate that DEX is a potent inhibitor of the suckling-induced PRL release. They also indicate that the site of action of DEX is not at the anterior pituitary gland or the paraventricular nuclei and hippocampus because DEX treatment and DEX implants had no effect on plasma PRL levels induced by DOMP and suckling stimulus, respectively. Our data suggest that the effect of DEX is mediated through a region of the medial basal hypothalamus. The observed transient block in suckling-induced PRL release may be physiologically relevant during stress in lactating mothers for conserving pituitary stores of the hormone needed for milk production or being able to adapt to a rapid change in osmoregulation.
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