In order to determine the temporal relationships between variations in 5-hydroxy-tryptamine (5-HT, serotonin) metabolism in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) and the cyclic LH surge, and also to check whether implantation of oestradiol capsules might modulate 5-HT metabolism in the SCN, we carried out a parallel study of 5-HT content in the SCN and median eminence, and 5-HT metabolism in the SCN and supraoptic region in vitro. These experiments were performed on intact male rats, ovariectomized females and ovariectomized females implanted with oestradiol.
It was only in ovariectomized rats implanted with oestradiol, in which we have described the existence of a clear-cut circadian rhythm of LH secretion, that we found fluctuations in the content, synthesis and utilization of 5-HT. The content and synthesis were characterized by a peak between 12.00 and 15.00 h, whereas utilization was 50% higher at 09.00 and 19.00 h than at 15.00 h. These fluctuations in 5-HT content and metabolism were specific to the SCN; the median eminence and the supraoptic region did not show such variations. They were also specific to ovariectomized rats implanted with oestradiol, since the patterns of 5-HT content and metabolism in the SCN were the same in males and ovariectomized females and did not differ from those in the median eminence, the supraoptic region or the whole hypothalamus.
These results suggest that 5-HT terminals in the SCN play an important role in the control of cyclic LH secretion at a critical period. Moreover, oestradiol seems to be partly responsible for the fluctuations of 5-HT metabolism in the SCN of ovariectomized rats implanted with oestradiol.