It has been postulated that some endocrine responses to stressful stimuli are mediated through the activation of hypothalamic pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC)-derived peptides. The aim of the present study was to analyse the effect of chronic stress on expression of the POMC gene in the medial basal hypothalamus and pituitary, and on serum concentrations of LH, β-endorphin and corticosterone. Adult male rats were killed after being subjected to restraint stress for 6 h/day over 2, 3 or 4 days. Chronic restraint induced an increase in serum concentrations of β-endorphin and corticosterone and a decrease in serum LH levels. To determine whether chronic stress induced any change in POMC synthesis, a dot-blot method was used to measure POMC mRNA levels. No significant changes were detected either in the β-endorphin content or in POMC mRNA levels in the medial basal hypothalamus after 2, 3 or 4 days of chronic restraint. This observation contrasts with the stimulation of POMC mRNA levels in both lobes of the pituitary. The data suggest that although chronic restraint induces an increase in POMC synthesis and secretion in the pituitary and a decrease in LH secretion, it has no effect on hypothalamic POMC neurones.
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