Changes in the active membrane properties of rat supraoptic neurones during pregnancy and lactation

Ryoichi Teruyama, University of Tennessee Health Science Center
W. E. Armstrong, University of Tennessee Health Science Center


To better understand the plasticity of intrinsic membrane properties of supraoptic magnocellular neuroendocrine cells associated with reproductive function, intracellular recordings were performed in oxytocin (OT) and vasopressin (VP) neurones from virgin, late pregnant (E19-22), and lactating (8-12 days of lactation) rats in vitro, using hypothalamic explants. OT neurones from virgin rats displayed a narrower spike width than neurones from pregnant and lactating rats, characterized by faster rise and decay times. Spike width changes in VP neurones were not as prominent as those observed in OT neurones. In OT neurones, the amplitude and the decay of the afterhyperpolarization following spike trains was significantly larger and faster, respectively, in pregnant and lactating rats compared to virgin rats. These properties did not change during pregnancy and lactation in VP neurones. The incidence of the depolarizing afterpotential following spikes significantly increased from approximately 20% in virgin rats to 40-50% during pregnancy and lactation in OT neurones, but was stable (80-90%) across states in VP neurones. Repetitive firing properties (frequency adaptation, the first interspike interval frequency and frequency-current (F-1) relationship) were altered during pregnancy and lactation in OT neurones, but not VP neurones. The increased incidence of depolarizing afterpotentials in OT neurones enhances excitability, while the increased afterhyperpolarization results in suppression of firing rate. Thus, the changes may favour the short bursting activity seen in OT neurones during lactation. These results confirmed reproductive state-dependent changes in intrinsic membrane properties of OT neurones during lactation, and suggest these changes are in place during late pregnancy. This argues that the plasticity in the electrical properties in OT neurones associated with lactation is not instigated by suckling.