We showed previously that neuropeptide Y1 receptor (Y1R) expression is increased in the hypothalamus on proestrus afternoon and that this up-regulation of Y1R mRNA may permit neuropeptide Y (NPY) to facilitate release of the preovulatory GnRH surge. Because NPY also modulates LH release directly, we examined steroid regulation of Y1R expression in the female rat anterior pituitary. Treatment of female rats with estrogen in vivo decreased the levels of Y1R mRNA in the whole pituitary gland. In lactotrope/somatotrope-enriched pituitary cells separated by unit gravity sedimentation, 17beta-estradiol (E(2)) treatment likewise suppressed Y1R expression. In contrast, E(2) elevated Y1R mRNA in gonadotrope-enriched cell populations, indicating that estrogen regulates Y1R mRNA expression differently in gonadotropes vs. other pituitary cell types. After exposure to E(2), NPY augmented GnRH-induced LH release from gonadotrope-enriched cells in a manner requiring Y1R activation. Without steroid exposure, this augmentation disappeared, and with progesterone alone, NPY reduced GnRH-induced LH release. In addition, NPY inhibited prolactin secretion from primary pituitary cells in a steroid-free environment, but not in the presence of estrogen. These findings demonstrate that E(2) can directly up-regulate gonadotrope responsiveness to NPY and suggest that this action is mediated at least in part by E(2)'s ability to stimulate Y1R gene expression in gonadotropes. Our observations are consistent with the idea that this regulatory mechanism represents a component of E(2)'s positive feedback actions in pituitary gonadotropes. The biological importance of E(2)'s opposite effects on Y1R expression in other pituitary cell types remains to be determined.
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