Hypothalamo-pituitary disconnection in the fetal sheep

Giuliana C. Antolovich, Iain J. Clarke, I. Caroline McMillen, Roslyn A. Perry, Peter M. Robinson, Marian Silver, Ross Young

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In this study we have applied the technique of hypothalamo-pituitary disconnection (HPD) to the fetal sheep at 108-112 days of gestation. The pituitary is surgically disconnected from the hypothalamus by the removal of the neural component of the median eminence above the level of the portal circulation. This procedure results in the complete disconnection of the pituitary from the hypothalamus. After HPD, the lactotroph response to the dopamine antagonist chlorpromazine was significantly reduced (p<0.005) indicating the functional isolation of the pituitary gland from the hypothalamus. The increase in plasma prolactin in response to exogenous thyrotrophin-releasing factor was maintained following HPD. HPD resulted in the complete atrophy of the pars nervosa. At 132-135 days of gestation after HPD there was no change in the volume or appearance of the pars distalis; small infarcts were observed in the pars distalis of some HPD fetuses, but these occupied less than 1% of the volume of the anterior lobe of the pituitary. There was a significant increase (p < 0.05) in the volume of the pars intermedia after HPD. Gestation was prolonged for at least 8 days beyond normal term following HPD, indicating that the processes integral to the initiation of parturition at term had been disrupted. We conclude that HPD provides a good in vivo model forthe investigation of the activity of the isolated pituitary gland, and for the examination of the role of neuroendocrine mechanisms in fetal sheep development in the latter third of gestation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1990


  • Fetal sheep
  • Hypothalamus
  • Pars distalis
  • Pars intermedia
  • Pituitary
  • Prolactin

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