In urethane-anaesthetized lactating rats, intramammary pressure occasionally displayed recurrent variations or oscillations having a slow rise time, low amplitude, long duration and a periodicity of 1–4 min. These oscillations differed from changes in intramammary pressure characteristic of reflex milk ejections induced by suckling, and were also observed in unsuckled rats. They were suppressed by lesions of the pituitary stalk or by stimulating the septum, a structure that inhibits the activity of the magnocellular system. They could be induced by long-term low frequency stimulation of the pituitary stalk, lesions of the septum or long-term infusions of oxytocin at a low rate of 0·05–0·3 mu./min. We suggest that the recurrent oscillations in intramammary pressure constitute a particular mode of response of the mammary gland to a tonic release of oxytocin resulting from a moderate but sustained increase in the basal level of electrical activity of the oxytocin-secreting neurones.
J. Endocr. (1985) 107, 89–96