The physiological role of activated hypothalamic N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors during the final phase of female sexual maturation was explored in the rat. The effects of administration of the specific non-competitive receptor antagonist MK-801 on the occurrence of first ovulation and on LH secretion were studied. Injections of MK-801 (0·1–0·2 mg/kg body wt, s.c.) were given once or twice daily, starting at 28 or 35 days of age and continuing up to the day of first ovulation, resulted in a significant delay of this ovulation. Rats that were treated daily with 0·2 mg MK-801/kg, starting on days 30 or 34 and continuing up to day 38, but not including the day of first pro-oestrus, also showed retarded first ovulation. No decrease in serum LH concentration, compared with control rats, could be detected in these rats.
Acute treatment with MK-801 (one or two injections of 0·2, or one injection of 0·5 mg/kg) given at 11.30 h (and 16.00 h) on the day of first pro-oestrus produced partial (1 × 0·2 mg/kg) or complete (2×0·2 and 1 × 0·5 mg/kg) blockade of first ovulation; blocked rats ovulated 1 day later. Serum LH concentrations at 16.00 h on the day of pro-oestrus were significantly decreased in all MK-801-treated groups compared with saline-injected control rats. At 19.00 and 22.00 h LH concentrations remained low in all non-ovulating MK-801-treated rats, but increased in the MK-801-treated rats that ovulated.
Thus chronic blockade of the NMDA receptors by the antagonist MK-801 delays but does not prevent first ovulation, whereas acute treatment blocks the pro-oestrous LH peak.
It was concluded that activation of NMDA receptors plays an important role both in tonic and preovulatory LH secretion during the onset of puberty in the female rat.
Journal of Endocrinology (1991) 131, 435–441