Prolactin stimulation of maternal behavior in female rats

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Science  15 Feb 1985:
Vol. 227, Issue 4688, pp. 782-784
DOI: 10.1126/science.3969568


Inexperienced, hypophysectomized female rats treated with steroids were used in experiments to investigate the roles of the pituitary gland and prolactin in the expression of maternal behavior. Administration of ovine prolactin or treatment with ectopic pituitary grafts, which release prolactin into the circulation, stimulated maternal care in these females toward rat young. Steroid treatment alone, while stimulating maternal behavior in rats with intact pituitary glands, did not facilitate maternal responsiveness in hypophysectomized females. These findings indicate a stimulatory behavioral role for pituitary prolactin in the establishment of maternal care and suggest that exposure to prolactin during pregnancy helps to stimulate the immediate onset of maternal behavior at parturition.