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K Hardy and S Spanos

There is increasing evidence that even before implantation, human development is regulated by embryonically and maternally derived growth factors. Studies in other mammalian species have shown that growth factors and their receptors are expressed by the preimplantation embryo and the reproductive tract. Furthermore, a number of growth factors have been shown to affect rate of embryo development, the proportion of embryos developing to the blastocyst stage, blastocyst cell number, metabolism and apoptosis. Growth factor ligands and receptors are also expressed in human embryos and the maternal reproductive tract, and supplementation of culture medium with exogenous growth factors affects cell fate, development and metabolism of human embryos in vitro. Autocrine, paracrine and endocrine pathways that may operate within the embryo and between the embryo and the reproductive tract before implantation are proposed.

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M. Pizzi, S. Rubessa, E. Simonazzi, V. Zanagnolo, L. Falsetti, M. Memo and P. F. Spano


Vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) is a prolactin-releasing hormone which is involved in the multifactorial modulation of prolactin secretion in mammals. Intravenous injection of VIP (1 μg/kg) to fertile women increased plasma prolactin levels and heart rate and reduced diastolic pressure. The same treatment to menopausal women caused similar cardiovascular effects but did not modify plasma prolactin levels. In contrast, TRH (200 μg, i.v.) induced a significant increase in plasma prolactin levels in both fertile and menopausal women. The relevance of oestrogens in affecting VIP-stimulated prolactin secretion was evaluated in vitro by measuring prolactin release from pituitary cells of control and ovariectomized rats. The sensitivity of rat mammotrophs to VIP, but not to TRH, was completely suppressed 3 or 4 weeks after ovariectomy. Furthermore, implantation of rats with a silastic capsule containing oestradiol-17β during ovariectomy, preserved the cell responsiveness to VIP. The prolactin-releasing property of VIP was also restored when pituitary cells from ovariectomized rats were cultured for 3 days in the presence of 10 nmol oestradiol-17β/l before being used for prolactin release experiments. The present study shows that the ability of prolactin-secreting cells to respond to the stimulatory action of VIP requires high levels of circulating oestrogens, both in man and rats.

Journal of Endocrinology (1992) 132, 311–316