Author(s): Leng G, Pineda R, Sabatier N, Ludwig M
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Abstract Geoffrey Harris pioneered our understanding of the posterior pituitary, mainly with experiments that involved the electrical stimulation of the supraoptico-hypophysial tract. In the present essay, we explain how his observations included clues to the pulsatile nature of the oxytocin signal - clues that were followed up by subsequent workers, including his students and their students. These studies ultimately led to our present understanding of the milk-ejection reflex and of the role of oxytocin in parturition. Discoveries of wide significance followed, including: the recognition of the importance of pulsatile hormone secretion; the recognition of the importance of stimulus-secretion coupling mechanisms in interpreting the patterned electrical activity of neurons; the physiological importance of peptide release in the brain; the recognition that peptide release comes substantially from dendrites and can be regulated independently of nerve terminal secretion; and the importance of dynamic morphological changes to neuronal function in the hypothalamus. All of these discoveries followed from the drive to understand the milk-ejection reflex. We also reflect on Harris's observations on vasopressin secretion, on the effects of stress, and on oxytocin secretion during sexual activity. © 2015 Society for Endocrinology.
This article was published in J Endocrinol
and referenced in Biochemistry & Pharmacology: Open Access