Oxytocin concentrations in the plasma, pituitary and hypothalamus of female rats were determined in the morning and evening over the 4-day oestrous cycle. Vasopressin concentrations were also determined to allow calculation of the ratios of the two hormones. The results were compared with those from male rats. Plasma oxytocin concentrations were significantly higher in the evening than in the morning on the day of oestrus. Although the evening concentration achieved was similar on each day of the cycle, morning plasma oxytocin concentrations showed a progressive rise from oestrus to pro-oestrus so that no significant diurnal increases were observed on the other days of the cycle. Vasopressin concentrations in the plasma were also seen to increase over the days of oestrus, dioestrus day 1 and dioestrus day 2. On pro-oestrus the plasma concentrations of vasopressin remained unchanged. The ratio of oxytocin:vasopressin fell during the light hours of the cycle. The hypothalamic content of both hormones showed a rise during the hours of daylight parallel to that seen in the plasma, whereas the pituitary content fell over the same period. The diurnal pattern of hormone release observed in male rats was similar to that in females at oestrus. However, the plasma oxytocin concentrations were significantly higher in the male.
The plasma clearance rate of vasopressin did not vary significantly during the oestrous cycle. However, the plasma clearance rate for oxytocin did show significant variation, being highest on dioestrus day 1 and lowest on dioestrus day 2.
Journal of Endocrinology (1993) 136, 305–311