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MF Walter, ML Forsling and DG Shirley

In order to determine the possible role of endogenous oxytocin in controlling electrolyte and water excretion in animals whose renal function is being assessed by invasive techniques, rats were anaesthetized and subjected to micropuncture surgery. Clearance measurements were made in the presence and absence of the potent oxytocin receptor antagonist d(CH(2))(5)[Tyr(Me)(2), Thr(4), Orn(8), Tyr(NH(2))(9)]-vasotocin. In rats infused with vehicle alone, glomerular filtration rate (GFR), sodium excretion and urine flow rate remained stable. In contrast, in antagonist-treated rats GFR was modestly reduced (P<0.05), and there were large falls in both absolute and fractional sodium excretion (P<0.01 in each case) and absolute and fractional water excretion (P<0.05 in each case), indicating effects on both filtered load and fractional tubular reabsorption. The antinatriuresis was not accompanied by a change in the fractional excretion of lithium, suggesting that proximal tubular function is unaffected by oxytocin receptor antagonism; nor was it accompanied by a change in the fractional excretion of potassium, suggesting that the tubular effect is located beyond the potassium secretory site, i.e. downstream of the cortical collecting tubule. We conclude that circulating plasma concentrations of oxytocin during anaesthesia and moderate surgery are sufficient to enhance GFR and reduce fractional tubular sodium and water reabsorption. This has important implications for the interpretation of invasive studies such as micropuncture.

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S Jarvis, AB Lawrence, KA McLean, J Chirnside, LA Deans, SK Calvert, CL Gilbert, JA Goode and ML Forsling

Oxytocin plays an important role at parturition due to its involvement in uterine contractions, foetal expulsion and the onset of maternal behaviour. The role of the related neurohypophysial hormone, vasopressin, is less clear; however, there is some evidence that it is also involved in maternal behaviour and its role in osmotic regulation is well established. The aim of this study was to investigate the inhibitory effects of endogenous opioids on these hormones during the expulsive phase of parturition in the pig, and to examine how opioid restraint interacts with environmental restriction. The subjects of this study were 31 Large Whitex Landrace primiparous sows (gilts). An indwelling jugular catheter was implanted under general anaesthesia at 12 days before the expected parturition day (EPD). From 5 days before the EPD 15 of the gilts were individually housed in a restrictive parturition crate without straw and 16 were individually housed in a straw-bedded pen. Blood samples were taken with increasing frequency towards and during parturition through a catheter extension to reduce disturbance. At 7.5 min after the birth of the first piglet half of the gilts in each environment received a dose of the opioid receptor antagonist naloxone (1 mg/kg, i.v.) with the remaining gilts receiving saline as a control. Overall, there was no effect of environment on either circulating oxytocin or vasopressin. However, both oxytocin and vasopressin were inhibited by endogenous opioids during the expulsive phase. The inhibitory effects of opioids on these hormones did not appear to have any adverse effects on the progress of parturition as judged by cumulative piglet birth intervals. The regulation of the opioid inhibition of oxytocin and vasopressin during parturition is discussed in relation to other neurotransmitters and whether opioid inhibition of these neurohypophysial hormones is part of the 'normal' physiological response to parturition or whether it is stress-induced.