18 April 2008
In the rat, the sexual dimorphism in growth hormone release is driven by sex steroids, and is suggested to result mainly from differences in somatostatin (SOM) release patterns from the median eminence. We studied the effect of gonadal steroids on SOM peptide-containing cells in the periventricular nucleus (PeVN) of ovariectomized (OVX) female rats, and compared these data with data from intact male rats. Adult female rats were treated with estradiol (E 2) and/or progesterone (P), 3 months (long-term) or 2 weeks (short-term) after ovariectomy (OVX). Perfusion-fixed brains were sliced and stained, and the number of SOM-immunoreactive (-ir) cells and total SOM-ir area (in μm 2) were determined using computer assisted analysis. SOM-ir cells in the PeVN showed a very characteristic rostro-caudal distribution and localization in relation to the third ventricle. Both the number of SOM-ir cells and total SOM-ir area in the PeVN were higher in male compared to OVX female rats. Neither the number of SOM-ir cells, nor the total SOM-ir area in the PeVN was affected by E 2 or P treatment alone. Treatment with both gonadal steroids, however, did increase total SOM-immunoreactivity. This study is the first to describe SOM cell distribution within the rat PeVN in great detail. A clear sex difference exists in SOM peptide content in the rat PeVN. In addition, E 2 and P may act synergistically to affect SOM cells in the female PeVN, suggesting that both gonadal steroids may be involved in the generation of the typical feminine SOM release pattern.