Several lines of evidence from different laboratories suggest that hypothalamic β-endorphinergic activity decreases around the time of initiation of the LH surge and may increase on estrus to extinguish the expression of the daily neuronal signal for the surge. In several hormone systems, factors that stimulate or suppress hormone release also stimulate or repress transcription of the hormone gene and translation of the messenger RNA encoding the hormone. Therefore, information about neurohormone activity may be inferred from data on changes in the levels of RNA species encoding these neurohormones. We used a solution hybridization/RNase protection assay to test the hypotheses that 1) the abundance of primary transcript of the hypothalamic POMC gene decreases at the time of initiation of the proestrous LH surge and 2) levels of POMC primary transcript (and by inference, levels of β-endorphin neuronal activity and secretion) increase on estrus. 96 rats exhibiting at least two consecutive 4-day estrous cycles were killed at either 0600 or 1300 h on proestrus and estrus. Dissections of the medial basal hypothalamus were pooled into 4 samples at each timepoint (6 rats per sample) and RNA was extracted from nuclear and cytoplasmic fractions separately. We measured levels of POMC primary transcript, processing intermediate and fully spliced mRNA in the nuclear fractions and POMC mRNA in cytoplasmic fractions. Compared to 0600 h, levels of POMC primary transcript decreased significantly during the afternoons of both proestrus and estrus (P < 0.05). Levels of nuclear processing intermediate RNA and cytoplasmic mRNA followed the same trend but the afternoon declines did not reach statistical significance. We conclude from these data that the afternoon decline in POMC gene expression is not unique to the day of proestrus and we speculate that an afternoon decline in β-endorphinergic neuronal activity may instead be a component of the daily signal for the LH surge.
ASJC Scopus subject areas