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International Journal of Endocrinology
Volume 2018, Article ID 3786038, 11 pages
Review Article

Adaptive Modifications of Maternal Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis Activity during Lactation and Salsolinol as a New Player in this Phenomenon

Department of Animal Physiology, The Kielanowski Institute of Animal Physiology and Nutrition Polish Academy of Sciences, Instytucka 3, 05-110 Jablonna, Poland

Correspondence should be addressed to Tomasz Misztal; lp.nap.zzfi@latzsim.t

Received 30 August 2017; Accepted 21 March 2018; Published 10 April 2018

Academic Editor: Maria L. Dufau

Copyright © 2018 Malgorzata Hasiec and Tomasz Misztal. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Both basal and stress-induced secretory activities of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis are distinctly modified in lactating females. On the one hand, it aims to meet the physiological demands of the mother, and on the other hand, the appropriate and stable plasma cortisol level is one of the essential factors for the proper offspring development. Specific adaptations of HPA axis activity to lactation have been extensively studied in several animal species and humans, providing interesting data on the HPA axis plasticity mechanism. However, most of the data related to this phenomenon are derived from studies in rats. The purpose of this review is to highlight these adaptations, with a particular emphasis on stress reaction and differences that occur between species. Existing data on breastfeeding women are also included in several aspects. Finally, data from the experiments in sheep are presented, indicating a new regulatory factor of the HPA axis—salsolinol—which typical role was revealed in lactation. It is suggested that this dopamine derivative is involved in both maintaining basal and suppressing stress-induced HPA axis activities in lactating dams.