Multiple functions of non-hypophysiotropic gonadotropin releasing hormone neurons in vertebrates

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Gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) is a hypophysiotropic hormone that is generally thought to be important for reproduction. This hormone is produced by hypothalamic GnRH neurons and stimulates the secretion of gonadotropins. On the other hand, vertebrates also have non-hypophysiotropic GnRH peptides, which are produced by extrahypothalamic GnRH neurons. They are mainly located in the terminal nerve, midbrain tegmentum, trigeminal nerve, and spinal cord (sympathetic preganglionic nerves). In vertebrates, there are typically three gnrh paralogues (gnrh1, gnrh2, gnrh3). GnRH-expression in the non-hypophysiotropic neurons (gnrh1 or gnrh3 in the terminal nerve and the trigeminal nerve, gnrh2 in the midbrain tegmentum) occurs from the early developmental stages. Recent studies have suggested that non-hypophysiotropic GnRH neurons play various functional roles. Here, we summarize their anatomical/physiological properties and discuss their possible functions, focusing on studies in vertebrates. GnRH neurons in the terminal nerve show different spontaneous firing properties during the developmental stages. These neurons in adulthood show regular pacemaker firing, and it has been suggested that these neurons show neuromodulatory function related to the regulation of behavioral motivation, etc. In addition to their recognized role in neuromodulation in adult, in juvenile fish, these neurons, which show more frequent burst firing than in adults, are suggested to have novel functions. GnRH neurons in the midbrain tegmentum show regular pacemaker firing similar to that of the adult terminal nerve and are suggested to be involved in modulations of feeding (teleosts) or nutrition-related sexual behaviors (musk shrew). GnRH neurons in the trigeminal nerve are suggested to be involved in nociception and chemosensory avoidance, although the literature on their electrophysiological properties is limited. Sympathetic preganglionic cells in the spinal cord were first reported as peptidergic modulatory neurons releasing GnRH with a putative function in coordinating interaction between vasomotor and exocrine outflow in the sympathetic nervous system. The functional role of non-hypophysiotropic GnRH neurons may thus be in the global modulation of neural circuits in a manner dependent on internal conditions or the external environment.




Umatani, C., & Oka, Y. (2019, July 22). Multiple functions of non-hypophysiotropic gonadotropin releasing hormone neurons in vertebrates. Zoological Letters. BioMed Central Ltd.

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