We recently reported that the latency to begin drinking water during slow, intravenous infusion of a concentrated NaCl solution was shorter in estradiol-treated ovariectomized rats compared to oil vehicle-treated rats, despite comparably elevated plasma osmolality. To test the hypothesis that the decreased latency to begin drinking is attributable to enhanced detection of increased plasma osmolality by osmoreceptors located in the CNS, the present study used immunocytochemical methods to label fos, a marker of neural activation. Increased plasma osmolality did not activate the subfornical organ (SFO), organum vasculosum of the lamina terminalis (OVLT), or the nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS) in either oil vehicle-treated rats or estradiol-treated rats. In contrast, hyperosmolality increased fos labeling in the area postrema (AP), the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVN) and the rostral ventrolateral medulla (RVLM) in both groups; however, the increase was blunted in estradiol-treated rats. These results suggest that estradiol has selective effects on the sensitivity of a population of osmo-/Na+-receptors located in the AP, which, in turn, alters activity in other central areas associated with responses to increased osmolality. In conjunction with previous reports that hyperosmolality increases blood pressure and that elevated blood pressure inhibits drinking, the current findings of reduced activation in AP, PVN, and RVLM-areas involved in sympathetic nerve activity-raise the possibility that estradiol blunts HS-induced blood pressure changes. Thus, estradiol may eliminate or reduce the initial inhibition of water intake that occurs during increased osmolality, and facilitate a more rapid behavioral response, as we observed in our recent study.
- Area postrema
- Circumventricular organs
- Nucleus of the solitary tract
- Paraventricular nucleus
- Rostral ventrolateral medulla