Enkephalin appears to exert an inhibitory action on LH secretion, but whether testosterone regulates enkephalin gene expression is unknown. This study tested the hypothesis that testosterone and/or season modulate preproenkephalin mRNA expression in specific areas of the hypothalamus. Romney Marsh rams were castrated (wethers) either during the breeding season or nonbreeding season and received intramuscular injections of either oil or testosterone propionate (five/group). Blood samples were taken for the assay of plasma LH and testosterone. Preproenkephalin mRNA expression was quantified in hypothalamic sections by in situ hybridization. Mean plasma LH concentrations were reduced and the interpulse interval for LH pulses was greater in testosterone propionate-treated wethers compared with oil-treated wethers, with no change in LH pulse amplitude. Testosterone propionate treatment reduced proenkephalin expression in the diagonal band of Broca, the caudal preoptic area, and the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. Seasonal differences in proenkephalin expression were observed in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, lateral septum, periventricular nucleus, and paraventricular nucleus. No differences were observed between treatments in seven other regions examined. We conclude that testosterone and season regulate proenkephalin mRNA levels in the preoptic area/hypothalamus in the ram in a region-specific manner.
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