Regulation of GnRH pulsatility in ewes
[Review of ]. REPRODUCTION, 156(3), R83–R99.
Early work in ewes provided a wealth of information on the physiological regulation of pulsatile gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) secretion by internal and external inputs. Identification of the neural systems involved, however, was limited by the lack of information on neural mechanisms underlying generation of GnRH pulses. Over the last decade, considerable evidence supported the hypothesis that a group of neurons in the arcuate nucleus that contain kisspeptin, neurokinin B and dynorphin (KNDy neurons) are responsible for synchronizing secretion of GnRH during each pulse in ewes. In this review, we describe our current understanding of the neural systems mediating the actions of ovarian steroids and three external inputs on GnRH pulsatility in light of the hypothesis that KNDy neurons play a key role in GnRH pulse generation. In breeding season adults, estradiol (E2) and progesterone decrease GnRH pulse amplitude and frequency, respectively, by actions on KNDy neurons, with E2 decreasing kisspeptin and progesterone increasing dynorphin release onto GnRH neurons. In pre-pubertal lambs, E2 inhibits GnRH pulse frequency by decreasing kisspeptin and increasing dynorphin release, actions that wane as the lamb matures to allow increased pulsatile GnRH secretion at puberty. Less is known about mediators of undernutrition and stress, although some evidence implicates kisspeptin and dynorphin, respectively, in the inhibition of GnRH pulse frequency by these factors. During the anoestrus, inhibitory photoperiod acting via melatonin activates A15 dopaminergic neurons that innervate KNDy neurons; E2 increases dopamine release from these neurons to inhibit KNDy neurons and suppress the frequency of kisspeptin and GnRH release.