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Stress is known to change the secretion of ovarian steroid hormones via the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian (HPO) axis. Noxious physical stress can cause reflex responses in visceral function via autonomic nerves. This article reviews our recent animal studies on neural mechanisms involved in ovarian estradiol secretion induced by noxious physical stress stimulation. In anesthetized rats, noxious physical stress (pinching the hindpaw or electrical stimulation of the tibial nerve) decreased ovarian estradiol secretion. These noxious stress-induced ovarian hormonal responses were observed after decerebration, but were abolished after spinal transection. Electrical stimulation of the ovarian sympathetic nerves (superior ovarian nerves: SON) decreased ovarian estradiol secretion. The reduced secretion of ovarian estradiol induced by hindpaw pinching was abolished by bilateral severance of the SON. Efferent activity of the SON was increased following hindpaw pinching. Thus, the inhibition of ovarian estradiol secretion during noxious physical stress was mainly integrated in the brainstem, and this inhibitory response was due to reflex activation of sympathetic nerves to the ovary. In rats, the sympathetic inhibitory regulation of ovarian estradiol secretion was pronounced when the HPO axis was inhibited by chronic estradiol treatment. Considering the female life cycle, extensive physical stress may inhibit ovarian function, especially before puberty and during old ages when the HPO axis is inactive. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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Name: Anatomical record (Hoboken, N.J. : 2007)
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