The plasma GH levels of female rats during late pregnancy were determined using an automatic method for repetitive blood sampling from conscious animals. The plasma GH patterns were analysed by a pulse analysis computer program (PULSAR). The mean plasma GH levels were about twofold higher in pregnant females on days 15, 18 and 22 of gestation than in age-matched non-pregnant females. The basal plasma GH levels were also increased, while there was no change in GH pulse amplitude or frequency. The augmentation of GH release was even more pronounced on day 20 of gestation, with a fourfold increase in mean plasma GH levels compared with those in non-pregnant females. This increase reflected an increase in both basal plasma GH levels and GH pulse amplitude, but there was no increase in pulse frequency. In female rats that delivered on day 22 of gestation, the basal and mean plasma GH levels increased during parturition.
Pregnant females consistently responded to multiple i.v. infusions of 1 μg human GH-releasing factor analogue (hGRF(1–29)-NH2) given at 45-min intervals on day 18 of gestation. Both basal and GRF analogue-stimulated plasma GH levels were undetectable after hypophysectomy of pregnant rats.
The present study demonstrates an increase in basal plasma GH levels during late pregnancy and a marked increase in both basal plasma GH levels and GH pulse amplitude on day 20 of gestation. Furthermore, hypophysectomy of pregnant rats results in undetectable GH levels, indicating that the high levels of GH during pregnancy are derived from the pituitary.
Journal of Endocrinology (1990) 124, 191–198