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SP Yang, KY Pau, and HG Spies

Hypothalamic norepinephrine (NE) plays an important role in the control of sexual behavior and in the secretion of gonadotropin. Our previous study showed that coitus induced simultaneous increases in hypothalamic NE and GnRH releases in female but not in male rabbits. To investigate the activities in noradrenergic neurons during the coitus-induced process of an LH surge, we measured tyrosine hydroxylase (TH, the rate-limiting enzyme in NE synthesis) and NE transporter (NET, a key protein for NE cellular reuptake) mRNA levels in locus coeruleus (LC) noradrenergic cells in female New Zealand White rabbits. Changes in LC-TH and LC-NET mRNA levels were also measured in males as controls. Female rabbits were killed before coitus and at 15, 30, 60, 120, and 240 min after coitus (n = 6-7/time point); males were killed before and at 30, 60, and 120 min after coitus (n = 3/time). Individual brainstems were sectioned, the LC neurons punched, and TH and NET mRNAs were quantified by ribonuclease protection assay (RPA). Rabbit-specific TH (330 bp) and NET (503 bp) cDNAs were used as probes in the RPA for gene-specific signals. A rabbit 'house-keeping' cDNA (cyclophilin, 158 bp) was also cloned and used as an internal marker for tissue RNA content. Trunk blood was collected to determine serum LH levels. In female rabbits, serum LH levels rose by 15 min after coitus, reached peak concentrations at 1-2 h, and declined thereafter. The time interval for changes in TH and NET mRNA levels in females was similar to that in serum LH levels. Both TH and NET mRNAs increased significantly by 15 min (73% and 85% respectively) and were elevated for 2 h (87% and 111% respectively). TH mRNA levels returned to basal levels by 4 h after coitus, whereas NET mRNA values were elevated throughout the 4 h of observation. In contrast, LH, TH and NET mRNA levels did not change after coitus in males. The enhanced gene expression of both TH and NET in the LC in females, in accord with our previous demonstration of increased hypothalamic NE release, suggests that regulation of NE synthesis and reuptake is an integral part of the coitus-induced NE/GnRH/LH surge process that includes the initiation, sustenance or recovery of the release and/or storage of these neurochemicals.