In ewes, anestrus results from a reduction in LH pulsatility due to an increased sensitivity of the hypothalamic estradiol negative feedback system. Considerable evidence has implicated the A15 group of dopaminergic neurons in the retrochiasmatic area in this seasonally dependent estradiol effect. Moreover, estradiol administered to the retrochiasmatic area in ovariectomized anestrous ewes inhibits LH secretion. However, A15 neurons do not appear to contain the classical estrogen receptors (ERα). Therefore, we tested the hypothesis that β-estrogen receptors mediate the action of estradiol in the retrochiasmatic area by comparing the effects of estradiol and genistein, a selective ERβ agonist. We also examined whether there are seasonal changes in response of the retrochiasmatic area to these agonists and if these effects are mediated by dopamine. To test these hypotheses, ovariectomized ewes were implanted with bilateral guide cannulae targeting the retrochiasmatic area. Crystalline agonists were administered via microimplants inserted down the cannulae. Blood samples taken before and 4 days after microimplant insertion were analyzed for LH concentrations, pulse frequency, and amplitude. Genistein treatment produced no significant change in LH levels in either season. Estradiol treatment decreased both mean LH concentrations and pulse frequency in anestrous but not breeding-season ewes. Administration of the dopamine antagonist sulpiride to ovariectomized ewes with estradiol microimplants in the retrochiasmatic area returned LH pulse frequency to levels indistinguishable from controls. From these data, we hypothesize that estradiol acts on local ERα-containing neurons in this area to stimulate a dopaminergic pathway that inhibits LH secretion during anestrus.
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