Neurohypophysial hormones have been implicated in the control of anterior pituitary function, and oxytocin has been shown to stimulate gonadotrophin excretion and ovarian follicular development in certain species. To determine the role of neurohypophysial peptides in the control of gonadotrophin release, their actions on LH and FSH secretion were analysed in rats in vivo and in vitro. In adult female rats, administration of oxytocin during early pro-oestrus advanced the spontaneous LH surge and markedly increased peripheral LH levels at 15.00 h compared with control animals. In cultured pituitary cells from adult female rats, oxytocin and vasopressin elicited dose-related increases in LH and FSH release. Such responses were not affected by a potent gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) antagonist that abolished GnRH agonist-induced release of LH and FSH. Oxytocin did not enhance GnRH agonist-stimulated gonadotrophin release to the same extent as it increased basal secretion, but at low concentrations of GnRH agonist the effects were additive. The gonadotrophin responses to oxytocin and vasopressin were inhibited by the specific neurohypophysial hormone antagonists, [d(CH2)5 d-Ile2,Ile4,Arg8]vasopressin and [d(CH2)5Tyr (Me),Arg8]vasopressin. These results provide direct evidence that neurohypophysial hormones can stimulate gonadotrophin secretion through a receptor system distinct from the GnRH receptor. Such a mechanism could represent a complementary hypothalamic control system for long-term modulation of LH and FSH secretion by exerting a basal or tonic influence on gonadotrophin production.
Journal of Endocrinology (1989) 122, 99–106