Osmoregulation of the magnocellular system during pregnancy and lactation

E. M. Koehler, G. L. McLemore, W. Tang, J. Y. Summy-Long

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


We compared the responsiveness of both the vasopressin (VP) and oxytocin (OT) magnocellular systems to osmotic stimulation during pregnancy and lactation to determine if changes in thresholds and sensitivities were similar for both neuropeptides. Virgin, pregnant (day 20), and lactating (day 6) Sprague-Dawley rats were injected with a hypertonic NaCl solution (0.25 M- 8.0 M NaCl; 15 ml/kg sc) and decapitated 2 h later. Late in gestation, the apparent osmotic threshold for both VP and OT release was lower by ~10 mosmol/kgH2O than that of virgin and lactating animals. The sensitivity (i.e., slope of the linear regression relating plasma osmolality and VP or OT levels) of the magnocellular system to osmoregulation, however, was unchanged in pregnant animals but was significantly attenuated (P <0.01) for both peptides during lactation (slopes of lactating vs. virgin rats: OT, 1.7 vs. 3.4; VP, 1.1 vs. 1.9). The neural lobe content of VP decreased (P <0.05) in pregnant rats, whereas OT stores were reduced (P <0.05) in lactating animals. Thus, during pregnancy, the lower tonicity of plasma is perceived as normal by both VP and OT neuroendocrine systems enabling excretion of an acute sodium or water load.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number3 33-3
StatePublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • lactation
  • osmoregulation
  • oxytocin
  • pregnancy
  • vasopressin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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