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Regulation of the milk ejection reflex in the rat.

By R E Dyball and G Leng


Extracellular recordings were made from neurones in or near the supraoptic nucleus in suckled lactating rats under urethane anaesthesia to investigate the mechanism by which the firing of oxytocin cells is synchronized during reflex milk ejection. Cells synaptically driven but not antidromically activated by neural stalk stimulation, which thus probably receive an afferent input from supraoptic neurones, were classified as 'regular' or 'bursters' on the basis of their spontaneous electrical activity. The majority (twelve out of eighteen) of synaptically excited cells (o.d.+) were bursters and the majority of inhibited (o.d.-) cells (eleven out of nineteen) were regular, but only one o.d.+ burster showed any change of activity (inhibition) before milk ejection. Putative oxytocin cells in suckled lactating rats showed a firing pattern between milk-ejection bursts which could not be distinguished from that of putative oxytocin cells in male animals. The mode interspike interval between milk ejections was 47.1 +/- 3.1 ms (mean +/- S.E. of mean) compared with 47.3 +/- 3.3 ms in male rats, and fewer than 1.4% of interspike intervals were less than 20 ms in duration. By contrast, within milk-ejection bursts 40% of interspike intervals were in the range 8-20 ms. Short trains (10 or 20) of pulses applied to the neural stalk at regular (5 min) intervals, in an attempt to simulate the initial part of the milk ejection burst, failed to trigger bursts. In only 2 of 150 tests was the interval between train and milk-ejection burst less than 10 s, and after the pulse train all but one cell showed reduced activity for 1-3 s. The trains of pulses were however not without effect: they significantly (P less than 0.01) enhanced the chance of a milk-ejection burst occurring within the next 2.5 min. Our observation that pulse trains do not trigger bursts suggests that local positive feed-back mechanisms are not responsible for orchestrating the activation of oxytocin cells during the milk-ejection reflex. Moreover, because spontaneous tiring pattern is the same in lactating and non-lactating rats, we found no evidence that the anatomical changes in the synaptic organization within the supraoptic nuclei in lactation have any influence on the firing of oxytocin cells. It is likely, however, since pulse trains alter the timing of milk ejections, that oxytocin released locally in the region of the supraoptic nucleus can influence reflex milk ejection.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS

Topics: Research Article
Year: 1986
DOI identifier: 10.1113/jphysiol.1986.sp016283
OAI identifier:
Provided by: PubMed Central
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