Vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) appears to be a physiologically relevant prolactin (PRL)-releasing factor during the avian reproductive cycle, yet little is known of the factors involved in modulating the hypothalamic concentrations of this neuropeptide. A heterologous chicken VIP radioimmunoassay was developed to examine the effects of reproductive status, ovariectomy, and photoperiod on hypothalamic VIP immunoreactivity in the female turkey. VIP concentrations were highest in the median eminence/infundibular nuclear complex ( ME INF) relative to other subregions of the hypothalamus and changed only in this region during the reproductive cycle. Quiescent, nonphotostimulated hens subjected to stimulatory photoperiod exhibited a 1.6-fold increase in VIP in the ME INF (quiescent 59.9 ± 6.0 vs photostimulated 95.8 ± 7.1 pg/μg protein). An additional 2-fold increase in ME INF VIP concentrations was observed in laying hens (183.0 ± 28.5 pg/μg protein). Coincident increases in plasma PRL were also observed. In contrast, during incubation and the photorefractory stage, a dissociation between hypothalamic VIP and plasma PRL occurred. No changes were observed in VIP in incubating hens, yet a 6-fold increase in PRL was noted, compared to layers. In addition, ME INF VIP concentrations exhibited no change during the photorefractory stage, whereas a 28-fold decrease in plasma PRL occurred. VIP concentrations in the ME INF of laying hens were unaffected by ovariectomy, whereas exposure to short photoperiod reduced VIP by 44%. The inhibitory effects of short photoperiod could not be reversed by administration of exogenous steroids, while steroid treatment reduced VIP concentrations by 45% in the ovariectomized hens. These results provide additional correlative evidence for a modulatory role of VIP in PRL secretion and suggest that the expression of this neuropeptide in the INF may serve as a neural link between photoperiodic mechanisms and PRL release during the avian reproductive cycle.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
’ Scientific journal series paper of the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station. Research supported by USDA Grant 88-37242-3845. ’ Present address: Department of Biological Chemistry, University of Michigan Medical School, M5416 Medical Science I, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-0606.