Seabirds, as long-lived top predators, accumulate contaminants such as mercury (Hg), an established endocrine disruptor. In long lived species hormonal secretion varies with age; therefore, Hg-induced endocrine disruption may be exacerbated in some age classes. Here we investigated relationships between blood total Hg and luteinizing hormone (LH, a key pituitary hormone for the onset of breeding), in pre-laying known-age (11–45 years old) snow petrels (Pagodroma nivea) from Adélie Land, Antarctica. We predicted that 1) blood Hg would increase with advancing age as a consequence of bio-accumulation; and that 2) increasing blood Hg would be related to decreased concentrations of LH in the most Hg-contaminated individuals. Hg concentrations were higher in females than in males (p<0.001), and contrary to our prediction, decreased with advancing age in males (p = 0.009) and tended to do so in females (p = 0.06). The analysis of stable isotopes (δ13C and δ15N) suggested that this unexpected pattern could originate from age and sex-related variations in trophic niche, and hence Hg exposure. Regarding LH, our prediction was only supported in young birds (≤23 years) where baseline LH was inversely correlated with Hg concentrations (p = 0.04). Hg burden did not predict baseline LH or GnRH-induced LH in birds that were more than 23 years old. These results show that age and contaminants may interfere with major endocrine mechanisms and, together with other recent studies, support the view that Hg could be connected to LH secretion and could then impair the fitness of long-lived birds.
Mercury, a ubiquitous toxic element, is known to alter expression of sex steroids and to impair reproduction across vertebrates but the mechanisms underlying these effects are not clearly identified. We examined whether contamination by mercury predicts the probability to skip reproduction in black-legged kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla) from Svalbard. We also manipulated the endocrine system to investigate the mechanism underlying this relationship. During the pre-laying period, we injected exogenous GnRH (gonadotropin-releasing hormone) to test the ability of the pituitary to release luteinizing hormone (LH, a key hormone for the release of sex steroids and hence breeding) in relation to mercury burden. Birds that skipped reproduction had significantly higher mercury concentration in blood than breeders. Endocrine profiles of these birds also varied based on breeding status (breeders versus non-breeders), mercury contamination and sex. Specifically, in skippers (birds that did not breed), baseline LH decreased with increasing mercury concentration in males, whereas it increased in females. GnRH-induced LH levels increased with increasing mercury concentration in both sexes. These results suggest that mercury contamination may disrupt GnRH input to the pituitary. Thus, high mercury concentration could affect the ability of long-lived birds to modulate their reproductive effort (skipping or breeding) according to ongoing environmental changes in the Arctic, thereby impacting population dynamics.
intermittent breeding; mercury; GnRH challenge; luteinizing hormone; black-legged kittiwake
While the number of studies providing evidence of actuarial senescence is increasing, and covers a wide range of taxa, the process of reproductive senescence remains poorly understood. In fact, quite high reproductive output until the last years of life has been reported in several vertebrate species, so that whether or not reproductive senescence is widespread remains unknown. We compared age-specific changes of reproductive parameters between two closely related species of long-lived seabirds: the small-sized snow petrel Pagodroma nivea, and the medium-sized southern fulmar Fulmarus glacialoides. Both are sympatric in Antarctica. We used an exceptional dataset collected over more than 40 years to assess age-specific variations of both breeding probability and breeding success. We found contrasted age-specific reproductive patterns between the two species. Reproductive senescence clearly occurred from 21 years of age onwards in the southern fulmar, in both breeding probability and success, whereas we did not report any decline in the breeding success of the snow petrel, although a very late decrease in the proportion of breeders occurred at 34 years. Such a contrasted age-specific reproductive pattern was rather unexpected. Differences in life history including size or migratory behaviour are the most likely candidates to account for the difference we reported in reproductive senescence between these sympatric seabird species.
vertebrates; life history; senescence; breeding success; age; Antarctic seabirds
Hybridization in natural populations provides an opportunity to study the evolutionary processes that shape divergence and genetic isolation of species. The emergence of pre-mating barriers is often the precursor to complete reproductive isolation. However, in recently diverged species, pre-mating barriers may be incomplete, leading to hybridization between seemingly distinct taxa. Here we report results of a long-term study at Bird Island, South Georgia, of the extent of hybridization, mate fidelity, timing of breeding and breeding success in mixed and conspecific pairs of the sibling species, Macronectes halli (northern giant petrel) and M. giganteus (southern giant petrel). The proportion of mixed-species pairs varied annually from 0.4–2.4% (mean of 1.5%), and showed no linear trend with time. Mean laying date in mixed-species pairs tended to be later than in northern giant petrel, and always earlier than in southern giant petrel pairs, and their breeding success (15.6%) was lower than that of conspecific pairs. By comparison, mixed-species pairs at both Marion and Macquarie islands always failed before hatching. Histories of birds in mixed-species pairs at Bird Island were variable; some bred previously or subsequently with a conspecific partner, others subsequently with a different allospecific partner, and some mixed-species pairs remained together for multiple seasons. We also report the first verified back-crossing of a hybrid giant petrel with a female northern giant petrel. We discuss the potential causes and evolutionary consequences of hybridization and back-crossing in giant petrels and summarize the incidence of back-crossing in other seabird species.
The pattern of the gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) stimulus is critically important in the regulation of pituitary gonadotropin secretion and continuous infusions down-regulate secretion while intermittent pulses maintain luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) responsiveness. We examined the effects of pulsatile GnRH administration on pituitary GnRH receptors (GnRH-R) and gonadotropin secretion in the presence of physiological concentrations of testosterone (T) to elucidate the mechanisms and sites of action of GnRH and T on the pituitary gonadotroph. Castrate male rats received one, two, or four testosterone (T) implants (serum T concentrations of 1.1, 2.4, and 5.2 ng/ml, respectively) to suppress endogenous GnRH secretion. Subsequently, intracarotid pulse injections of GnRH (5-250 ng/pulse) or saline in controls were given every 30 min for 48 h, after which gonadotropin responses and pituitary GnRH-R were measured. In control rats, the T implants prevented the rise in GnRH-R that was seen in castrates (empty implant--600 fmol/mg protein) and maintained receptors at the level that was present in intact animals (300 fmol/mg). Pulsatile GnRH administration increased GnRH-R in castrate T-implanted rats, but the response was dependent on the serum T concentration. With one T implant, increasing GnRH doses per pulse stimulated GnRH-R in a linear manner and the maximum receptor concentration (703 +/- 99 fmol/mg) was seen after the 250 ng GnRH dose. In the presence of two T implants, GnRH-R was maximal (705 +/- 45 fmol/mg) after the 25-ng dose and higher doses did not increase receptors above control values. With four T implants, GnRH doses of 5 ng induced a maximum response, 17-50 ng/pulse did not increase GnRH-R, but receptors were again increased by the 250-ng dose (633 +/- 86 fmol/mg). After 48 h of pulsatile GnRH administration there was no correlation between the number of GnRH-R and LH responses to GnRH. In rats with one or two T implants, LH responses were absent after all but the 250-ng doses. In contrast, LH responsiveness was not impaired in the presence of four implants. Thus, low dose GnRH pulses down-regulate LH secretion by an action at a post GnRH-R site, and this effect is regulated by testosterone. The results show that GnRH, given in a pulsatile manner, regulates its own receptor, and physiological increases in serum T produce a 50-fold increase in the sensitivity of GnRH-R stimulation by GnRH.
The loss of reproductive capacity during aging involves changes in the neural regulation of the hypothalamic gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons controlling reproduction. This neuronal circuitry includes glutamate receptors on GnRH neurons. Previously, we reported an increase in the expression of the NR2b subunit protein of the NMDA receptor on GnRH neurons in middle-aged compared to young female rats. Here, we examined the functional implications of the NR2b subunit on the onset of reproductive aging, using an NR2b-specific antagonist ifenprodil. Young (3–5 mos.) and middle-aged (10–13 mos.) female rats were ovariectomized (OVX), 17β-estradiol (E2) or vehicle (cholesterol) treated, and implanted with a jugular catheter. Serial blood sampling was undertaken every 10 minutes for 4 hours, with ifenprodil (10mg/kg) or vehicle injected (i.p.) after one hour of baseline sampling. The pulsatile release of pituitary LH and levels of GnRH mRNA in hypothalamus were quantified as indices of the reproductive axis. Our results showed effects of ifenprodil on both endpoints. In OVX rats given cholesterol, neither age nor ifenprodil had any effects on LH release. In E2-treated rats, aging was associated with significant decreases in pulsatile LH release. Additionally, ifenprodil stimulated parameters of pulsatile LH release in both young and middle-aged animals. Ifenprodil had few effects on GnRH mRNA; the only significant effect of ifenprodil was found in the middle-aged, cholesterol group. Together, these findings support a role for the NR2b subunit of the NMDAR in GnRH/LH regulation. Because most of these effects were exhibited on pituitary LH release in the absence of a concomitant change in GnRH gene expression, it is likely that NMDA receptors containing the NR2b subunit plays a role in GnRH-induced LH release, independent of de novo GnRH gene expression.
Luteinizing hormone (LH); gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH); glutamate; N-methyl-D-Aspartate receptor (NMDAR); NR2b; reproductive aging; reproductive senescence; estrogen; GnRH mRNA; ifenprodil
Kisspeptins (Kiss) are prime players in the control of reproductive function through their regulation of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) expression in the brain. The experimental scombroid fish, chub mackerel (Scomber japonicus) expresses two kiss (kiss1 and kiss2) and three gnrh (gnrh1, gnrh2, and gnrh3) forms in the brain. In the present study, we analyzed expression changes of kiss and gnrh mRNAs in the brain and corresponding GnRH peptides in the brain and pituitary during final ovarian maturation (FOM) and ovulation.
Female fish possessing late vitellogenic oocytes were injected with GnRH analogue to induce FOM and ovulation. Fish were observed for daily spawning activities and sampled one week post-injection at germinal vesicle migration (GVM), oocyte hydration, ovulation, and post-ovulatory time periods. Changes in relative mRNA levels of kiss and gnrh forms in the brain were determined using quantitative real-time PCR. Changes in GnRH peptides in the brain and pituitary were analyzed using time-resolved fluoroimmunoassay.
Both kiss1 and kiss2 mRNA levels in the brain were low at late vitellogenic stage and increased significantly during the GVM period. However, kiss1 mRNA levels decreased during oocyte hydration before increasing again at ovulatory and post-ovulatory periods. In contrast, kiss2 mRNA levels decreased at ovulatory and post-ovulatory periods. Levels of gnrh1 mRNA in the brain increased only during post-ovulatory period. However, levels of gnrh2 and gnrh3 mRNAs were elevated during GVM and then, decreased during oocyte hydration before increasing again at ovulatory period. During post-ovulatory period, both gnrh2 and gnrh3 mRNA levels declined. Peptide levels of all three GnRH forms in the brain were elevated during GVM and oocyte hydration; their levels were significantly lower during late vitellogenic, ovulatory, and post-ovulatory periods. In contrast, pituitary GnRH peptide levels did not show any significant fluctuations, with the GnRH1 peptide levels being many-fold higher than the GnRH2 and GnRH3 forms.
The results indicate increased expression of multiple Kiss and GnRH forms in the brain and suggest their possible involvement in the regulation of FOM and ovulation in captive female chub mackerel.
Kisspeptins; Kiss; GnRH; Mackerel; Brain; Pituitary; Spawning cycle
The hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis is the key reproductive regulator in vertebrates. While gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH), follicle stimulating (FSH), and luteinizing (LH) hormones are primarily produced in the hypothalamus and pituitary, they can be synthesized in the gonads, suggesting an intraovarian GnRH-gonadotropin axis. Because these hormones are critical for follicle maturation and steroidogenesis, we hypothesized that this intraovarian axis may be important in photoperiod-induced ovarian regression/recrudescence in seasonal breeders. Thus, we investigated GnRH-1 and gonadotropin mRNA and protein expression in Siberian hamster ovaries during (1) the estrous cycle; where ovaries from cycling long day hamsters (LD;16L:8D) were collected at proestrus, estrus, diestrus I, and diestrus II and (2) during photoperiod induced regression/ recrudescence; where ovaries were collected from hamsters exposed to 14wks of LD, short days (SD;8L:16D), or 8wks post-transfer to LD after 14wks SD (PT). GnRH-1, LHβ, FSHβ, and common α subunit mRNA expression was observed in cycling ovaries. GnRH-1 expression peaked at diestrus I compared to other stages (p<0.05). FSHβ and LHβ mRNA levels peaked at proestrus and diestrus I (p<0.05), with no change in the α subunit across the cycle (p>0.05). SD exposure decreased ovarian mass and plasma estradiol concentrations (p<0.05) and increased GnRH-1, LHβ, FSHβ, and α subunit mRNA expression as compared to LD and, except for LH, compared to PT (p<0.05). GnRH and gonadotropin protein was also dynamically expressed across the estrous cycle and photoperiod exposure. The presence of cycling intraovarian GnRH-1 and gonadotropin mRNA suggests that these hormones may be locally involved in ovarian maintenance during SD regression and/or could potentially serve to prime ovaries for rapid recrudescence.
Ovary; Seasonal breeding; Photoperiod; GnRH-1; FSH; LH
The structure, functioning and dynamics of polar marine ecosystems are strongly influenced by the extent of sea ice. Ice algae and pelagic phytoplankton represent the primary sources of nutrition for higher trophic-level organisms in seasonally ice-covered areas, but their relative contributions to polar marine consumers remain largely unexplored. Here, we investigated the potential of diatom-specific lipid markers and highly branched isoprenoids (HBIs) for estimating the importance of these two carbon pools in an Antarctic pelagic ecosystem. Using GC-MS analysis, we studied HBI biomarkers in key marine species over three years in Adélie Land, Antarctica: euphausiids (ice krill Euphausia crystallorophias and Antarctic krill E. superba), fish (bald notothens Pagothenia borchgrevinki and Antarctic silverfish Pleuragramma antarcticum) and seabirds (Adélie penguins Pygoscelis adeliae, snow petrels Pagodroma nivea and cape petrels Daption capense). This study provides the first evidence of the incorporation of HBI lipids in Antarctic pelagic consumers. Specifically, a di-unsaturated HBI (diene) of sea ice origin was more abundant in ice-associated species than in pelagic species, whereas a tri-unsaturated HBI (triene) of phytoplanktonic origin was more abundant in pelagic species than in ice-associated species. Moreover, the relative abundances of diene and triene in seabird tissues and eggs were higher during a year of good sea ice conditions than in a year of poor ice conditions. In turn, the higher contribution of ice algal derived organic matter to the diet of seabirds was related to earlier breeding and higher breeding success. HBI biomarkers are a promising tool for estimating the contribution of organic matter derived from ice algae in pelagic consumers from Antarctica.
To study the role of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) receptors in the regulation of gonadotropin secretion, we used D-125I-alanine6 des glycyl10 GnRH ethylamide (D-125I-Ala analog), a nondegradable, superagonist GnRH analog to assess GnRH receptors on rat pituitary membranes. Receptor affinity in intact adult rats was 5.0 X 10(9) M-1 and was unchanged after castration in both sexes. Castration of adult male and female rats produced a twofold increase in GnRH binding capacity by 7 d and binding capacity remained elevated for the subsequent 14 d. GnRH receptor number rose more rapidly after castration in males than females, and the time-course of receptor rise was similar to the increase in serum gonadotropin levels. The increase in GnRH binding capacity was prevented by gonadal steroid replacement at the time of castration in both sexes. Injections of the GnRH analog, D-Ser6 (TBu) des Gly10 GnRH ethylamide for 4 d produced a 70% increase in GnRH receptor number in intact male rats and testosterone-replaced castrates. The same regimen, however, failed to increase the elevated receptor numbers present after castration. Administration of rabbit anti-GnRH serum concomitant with castration inhibited the rise in both GnRH receptor number and luteinizing hormone. The changes in pituitary GnRH receptors parallel previously demonstrated changes in hypothalamic secretion of GnRH. Thus, GnRH probably regulates its own receptor in vivo and gonadal steroids may influence pituitary GnRH receptors by changing hypothalamic GnRH secretion.
Acquisition of a mature pattern of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) secretion from the CNS is a hallmark of the pubertal process. Little is known about GnRH release during sexual maturation, but it is assumed to be minimal before later stages of puberty. We studied spontaneous GnRH secretion in brain slices from male mice during perinatal and postnatal development using fast-scan cyclic voltammetry (FSCV) to detect directly the oxidation of secreted GnRH. There was good correspondence between the frequency of GnRH release detected by FSCV in the median eminence of slices from adults with previous reports of in vivo luteinizing hormone (LH) pulse frequency. The frequency of GnRH release in the late embryonic stage was surprisingly high, reaching a maximum in newborns and remaining elevated in 1-week-old animals despite low LH levels. Early high-frequency GnRH release was similar in wild-type and kisspeptin knock-out mice indicating that this release is independent of kisspeptin-mediated excitation. In vivo treatment with testosterone or in vitro treatment with gonadotropin-inhibitory hormone (GnIH) reduced GnRH release frequency in slices from 1-week-old mice. RF9, a putative GnIH antagonist, restored GnRH release in slices from testosterone-treated mice, suggesting that testosterone inhibition may be GnIH-dependent. At 2–3 weeks, GnRH release is suppressed before attaining adult patterns. Reduction in early life spontaneous GnRH release frequency coincides with the onset of the ability of exogenous GnRH to induce pituitary LH secretion. These findings suggest that lack of pituitary secretory response, not lack of GnRH release, initially blocks downstream activation of the reproductive system.
cyclic voltammetry; gonadotropin inhibitory hormone; gonadotropin releasing hormone; puberty; testosterone
Many seasonally breeding avian species exhibit marked changes in hypothalamic content of gonadotropin-releasing vhormone 1 (GNRH1) protein that are reflective of breeding condition. We recently cloned the GNRH1 cDNA in European starlings and demonstrated that changes in GNRH1 mRNA levels occur with a time course similar to what has been observed with GNRH1 protein. However, we did not previously resolve whether these differences were attributable to changes in the number of cells expressing the gene. Herein, we investigated photoperiod-induced changes in the number and distribution of GNRH1 mRNA-expressing cells in the preoptic area of male starlings. GNRH1 mRNA-expressing cell number was significantly greater in breeding birds than in nonbreeding birds. Starlings maintained in short nonstimulatory day length (i.e., prebreeding) showed intermediate cell numbers. Detailed analysis of the rostrocaudal and mediolateral distribution revealed that breeding birds had greater numbers of cells expressing GNRH1 mRNA in the medial intermediate, mediocaudal, and lateral intermediate preoptic area compared with prebreeding and nonbreeding birds. These data demonstrate that photoperiodic changes in reproductive state in starlings are associated with region-specific alterations in the number of cells expressing the GNRH1 gene. It remains to be determined whether these changes reflect quantitative differences in gene expression among an otherwise stable population of cells or a phenotypic switch in which cells gain or lose the ability to make GNRH1 mRNA in response to environmental cues.
Starlings exhibit marked variation in the distribution and number of cells that express gonadotropin-releasing hormone 1 (GNRH1) mRNA in the hypothalamus during differing reproductive states.
gonadotropin-releasing hormone; neuroendocrinology; seasonal reproduction
Gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurones of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis drive reproductive function and undergo age-related decreases in activation during the transition to reproductive senescence. Decreased GnRH secretion from the median eminence (ME) partially arises from attenuated glutamatergic signaling via the NMDA receptor (NMDAR), and may be due to changing NMDAR stoichiometry to favor NR2b over NR2a subunit expression with aging. We have previously shown that the systemic inhibition of NR2b-containing receptors with ifenprodil, an NR2b-specific antagonist, stimulates parameters of luteinising hormone (used as a proxy for GnRH) release in both young and middle-aged females. Here, we chronically administered ifenprodil, an NR2b-specific antagonist, at the site of GnRH terminals in the median eminence (ME) or at GnRH perikarya in the preoptic area, in reproductively senescent middle-aged female rats to determine whether NR2b antagonism could restore aspects of reproductive functionality. Effects on oestrous cyclicity, serum hormones, and protein expression of GnRH, NR2b, and phosphorylated NR2b (Tyr-1472) in the ME were measured. Chronic ifenprodil treatment in the ME, but not the preoptic area, altered oestrous cyclicity by increasing the percentage of days spent in pro-oestrus. This was accompanied by increased GnRH fluorescence intensity in the external ME zone and a greater proportion of GnRH terminals that co-labelled with pNR2b with treatment. We also observed changes in the relationships between protein immunofluorescence, serum hormone levels, and other aspects of reproductive physiology in acyclic females, as revealed by bionetwork analysis. Together, these data support the hypothesis that NMDAR-NR2b expression and phosphorylation state play a role in reproductive senescence and highlight the ME as a major player in reproductive aging.
Median Eminence; Menopause; Reproductive senescence; NMDA receptor; GnRH
Weather extremes are one important element of ongoing climate change, but their impacts are poorly understood because they are, by definition, rare events. If the frequency and severity of extreme weather events increase, there is an urgent need to understand and predict the ecological consequences of such events. In this study, we aimed to quantify the effects of snow storms on nest survival in Antarctic petrels and assess whether snow storms are an important driver of annual breeding success and population growth rate. We used detailed data on daily individual nest survival in a year with frequent and heavy snow storms, and long term data on petrel productivity (i.e., number of chicks produced) at the colony level. Our results indicated that snow storms are an important determinant of nest survival and overall productivity. Snow storm events explained 30% of the daily nest survival within the 2011/2012 season and nearly 30% of the interannual variation in colony productivity in period 1985–2014. Snow storms are a key driver of Antarctic petrel breeding success, and potentially population dynamics. We also found state-dependent effects of snow storms and chicks in poor condition were more likely to die during a snow storm than chicks in good condition. This stresses the importance of considering interactions between individual heterogeneity and extreme weather events to understand both individual and population responses to climate change.
Antarctic petrel; body condition; extreme event; individual state; offspring survival; Thalassoica antarctica
Prepubertal girls and gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH)-deficient females secrete follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) preferentially in response to intravenous GnRH. With continued pulsatile GnRH stimulation, FSH secretion is reduced when plasma estradiol (E2) is increasing. To delineate the mechanisms involved in these changing gonadotropin responses, e studied the effect of low dose (0.025 micrograms/kg) pulsatile injections of GnRH in females with varying degrees and/or duration of endogenous GnRH deficiency (idiopathic panhypopituitarism, PHP; isolated growth hormone deficiency, IGHD; isolated gonadotropin deficiency, IGD; and anorexia nervosa, AN; both at low body weight and after weight regain). In patients presumed to have the most severe GnRH deficiency (PHP), responses of both FSH and luteinizing hormone (LH) were small and delayed, and no increase in plasma estradiol occurred during the 5 d of GnRH injections. In patients previously exposed to prepubertal or adult levels of endogenous GnRH secretion (IGHD, IGD, AN at low body weight), a rapid initial FSH response occurred that subsequently declined when plasma estradiol rose to concentrations greater than 40-50 pg/ml. Prior therapy with estrogen (micronized estradiol, Estrace) abolished FSH responses but LH responses were only slightly impaired. The degree of FSH response was dependent upon the time of initiation of estrogen relative to the onset of GnRH injections. Administration of estrogen after the first GnRH injection inhibited gonadotropin responses, whereas later estrogen therapy (after 1 d of GnRH pulses) blunted the GnRH induced FSH secretion without significantly impairing the LH response. In weight-regained anorexic patients who had spontaneous pulsatile LH secretion and a mean basal plasma estradiol concentration of 53 +/- 15 pg/ml, administration of GnRH pulses did not change plasma LH and a minimal FSH response was seen. The data indicate that the pattern of gonadotropin responses to low dose GnRH injections depends upon the degree of previous exposure of the pituitary to endogenous GnRH. Furthermore, estradiol selectively inhibits FSH secretion by a direct action on the pituitary gland. This action of estradiol provides an explanation for the selective reduction in FSH responses to GnRH seen during pubertal maturation in girls and during the mid-follicular stage of the menstrual cycle.
Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone (GnRH) is a small neuropeptide that regulates pituitary release of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). These gonadotropins are essential for the regulation of reproductive function. The GnRH-containing neurons are distributed diffusely throughout the hypothalamus and project to the median eminence where they release GnRH from their axon terminals into the hypophysiotropic portal system (1). In the portal capillaries, GnRH travels to the anterior pituitary gland to stimulate release of gonadotropins into systemic circulation. GnRH release is not continuous but rather occurs in episodic pulses. It is well established that the intermittent manner of GnRH release is essential for reproduction (2, 3).
Coordination of activity of multiple GnRH neurons probably underlies GnRH pulses. Total peptide content in GnRH neurons is approximately 1.0 pg/cell (4), of which 30% likely comprises the releasable pool. Levels of GnRH during a pulse (5, 6), suggest multiple GnRH neurons are probably involved in neurosecretion. Likewise, single unit activity extracted from hypothalamic multi-unit recordings during LH release indicates changes in activity of multiple neurons (7). The electrodes with recorded activity during LH pulses are associated with either GnRH somata or fibers (8). Therefore, at least some of this activity arises from GnRH neurons.
The mechanisms that result in synchronized firing in hypothalamic GnRH neurons are unknown. Elucidating the mechanisms that coordinate firing in GnRH neurons is a complex problem. First, the GnRH neurons are relatively few in number. In rodents, there are 800-2500 GnRH neurons. It is not clear that all GnRH neurons are involved in episodic GnRH release. Moreover, GnRH neurons are diffusely distributed (1). This has complicated our understanding of coordination of firing and has made many technical approaches intractable. We have optimized loose cell-attached recordings in current-clamp mode for the direct detection of action potentials and developed a recording approach that allows for simultaneous recordings from pairs of GnRH neurons.
To avoid breeding during unsuitable environmental or physiological circumstances, the reproductive axis adjusts its output in response to fluctuating internal and external conditions. The ability of the reproductive system to alter its activity appropriately in response to these cues has been well established. However, the means by which reproductively relevant cues are interpreted, integrated, and relayed to the reproductive axis remain less well specified. The neuropeptide kisspeptin has been shown to be a potent positive stimulator of the hypothalamo-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis, suggesting a possible neural locus for the interpretation/integration of these cues. Because a failure to inhibit reproduction during winter would be maladaptive for short-lived female rodents, female Siberian hamsters (Phodopus sungorus) housed in long and short days hamsters were examined. In long, ‘summer’ photoperiods, kisspeptin is highly expressed in the anteroventral periventricular nucleus (AVPV), with low expression in the arcuate nucleus (Arc). A striking reversal in this pattern is observed in animals held in short, ‘winter’ photoperiods, with negligible kisspeptin expression in the AVPV and marked staining in the Arc. Although all studies to date suggest that both populations act to stimulate the reproductive axis, these contrasting expression patterns of AVPV and Arc kisspeptin suggest disparate roles for these two cell populations. Additionally, we found that the stimulatory actions of exogenous kisspeptin are blocked by acyline, a gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) receptor antagonist, suggesting an action of kisspeptin on the GnRH system rather than pituitary gonadotropes. Finally, females held in short day lengths exhibit a reduced response to exogenous kisspeptin treatment relative to long-day animals. Together, these findings indicate a role for kisspeptin in the AVPV and Arc as an upstream integration center for reproductively-relevant stimuli and point to a dual mechanism of reproductive inhibition in which kisspeptin expression is reduced concomitant with reduced sensitivity of the HPG axis to this peptide.
metastin; GPR54; photoperiod; Siberian hamster; seasonal; reproduction
Seasonally breeding birds detect environmental signals, such as light, temperature, food availability, and presence of mates to time reproduction. Hypothalamic neurons integrate external and internal signals, and regulate reproduction by releasing neurohormones to the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland synthesizes and releases gonadotropins which in turn act on the gonads to stimulate gametogenesis and sex steroid secretion. Accordingly, how gonadotropin secretion is controlled by the hypothalamus is key to our understanding of the mechanisms of seasonal reproduction. A hypothalamic neuropeptide, gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), activates reproduction by stimulating gonadotropin synthesis and release. Another hypothalamic neuropeptide, gonadotropin-inhibitory hormone (GnIH), inhibits gonadotropin synthesis and release directly by acting on the pituitary gland or indirectly by decreasing the activity of GnRH neurons. Therefore, the next step to understand seasonal reproduction is to investigate how the activities of GnRH and GnIH neurons in the hypothalamus and their receptors in the pituitary gland are regulated by external and internal signals. It is possible that locally-produced triiodothyronine resulting from the action of type 2 iodothyronine deiodinase on thyroxine stimulates the release of gonadotropins, perhaps by action on GnRH neurons. The function of GnRH neurons is also regulated by transcription of the GnRH gene. Melatonin, a nocturnal hormone, stimulates the synthesis and release of GnIH and GnIH may therefore regulate a daily rhythm of gonadotropin secretion. GnIH may also temporally suppress gonadotropin secretion when environmental conditions are unfavorable. Environmental and social milieus fluctuate seasonally in the wild. Accordingly, complex interactions of various neuronal and hormonal systems need to be considered if we are to understand the mechanisms underlying seasonal reproduction.
seasonal reproduction; hypothalamus-pituitary-gonadal axis; gonadotropins; gonadotropin-releasing hormone; gonadotropin-inhibitory hormone; thyroid hormone; melatonin; stress
Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) controls the reproductive physiology and behavior of vertebrates by stimulating synthesis and release of gonadotropin from the pituitary gland. In 2000, another hypothalamic neuropeptide, gonadotropin-inhibitory hormone (GnIH), was discovered in quail and found to be an inhibiting factor for gonadotropin release. GnIH homologs are present in the brains of vertebrates, including birds, mammals, amphibians, and fish. These peptides, categorized as RF amide-related peptides (RFRPs), possess a characteristic LPXRF-amide (X = L or Q) motif at their C-termini. GnIH/RFRP precursor mRNA encodes a polypeptide that is possibly cleaved into three mature peptides in birds and two in mammals. The names of these peptides are GnIH, GnIH-related peptide-1 (GnIH-RP-1) and GnIH-RP-2 in birds, and RFRP-1 and RFRP-3 in mammals. GnIH/RFRP is synthesized in neurons of the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus in birds and the dorsomedial hypothalamic area in mammals. GnIH neurons project to the median eminence, thus providing a functional neuroanatomical infrastructure to regulate anterior pituitary function. In quail, GnIH inhibits gonadal activity by decreasing synthesis and release of gonadotropin. The widespread distribution of GnIH/RFRP immunoreactive fibers in all animals tested suggests various actions within the brain. In accordance, GnIH/RFRP receptor mRNA is also expressed widely in the brain and the pituitary. GnIH/RFRP immunoreactive axon terminals are in probable contact with GnRH neurons in birds and mammals, and we recently demonstrated expression of GnIH receptor mRNA in GnRH-I and GnRH-II neurons in European starlings. Thus, GnIH/RFRP may also inhibit gonadotropin synthesis and release by inhibiting GnRH neurons in addition to having direct actions on the pituitary gland. Intracerebroventricular administration of GnIH/RFRP further inhibits reproductive behaviors in songbirds and rodents, possibly via direct actions on the GnRH system. The expression of GnIH/RFRP is regulated by melatonin which is an internal indicator of day length in vertebrates. Stress stimuli also regulate the expression of GnIH/RFRP in songbirds and rodents. Accordingly, GnIH/RFRP may serve as a transducer of environmental information and social interactions into endogenous physiology and behavior of the animal. Recently, it was shown that GnIH/RFRP and its receptor are also expressed in the gonads of birds, rodents and primates. In sum, the existing data suggest that GnIH/RFRP is an important mediator of reproductive function acting at the level of the brain, pituitary, and the gonad in birds and mammals.
In long-lived species only a fraction of a population breeds at a given time. Non-breeders can represent more than half of adult individuals, calling in doubt the relevance of estimating demographic parameters from the sole breeders. Here we demonstrate the importance of considering observable non-breeders to estimate reliable demographic traits: survival, return, breeding, hatching and fledging probabilities. We study the long-lived quasi-biennial breeding wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans). In this species, the breeding cycle lasts almost a year and birds that succeed a given year tend to skip the next breeding occasion while birds that fail tend to breed again the following year. Most non-breeders remain unobservable at sea, but still a substantial number of observable non-breeders (ONB) was identified on breeding sites. Using multi-state capture-mark-recapture analyses, we used several measures to compare the performance of demographic estimates between models incorporating or ignoring ONB: bias (difference in mean), precision (difference is standard deviation) and accuracy (both differences in mean and standard deviation). Our results highlight that ignoring ONB leads to bias and loss of accuracy on breeding probability and survival estimates. These effects are even stronger when studied in an age-dependent framework. Biases on breeding probabilities and survival increased with age leading to overestimation of survival at old age and thus actuarial senescence and underestimation of reproductive senescence. We believe our study sheds new light on the difficulties of estimating demographic parameters in species/taxa where a significant part of the population does not breed every year. Taking into account ONB appeared important to improve demographic parameter estimates, models of population dynamics and evolutionary conclusions regarding senescence within and across taxa.
Seabirds are highly vagile and can disperse up to thousands of kilometers, making it difficult to identify the factors that promote isolation between populations. The endemic Hawaiian petrel (Pterodroma sandwichensis) is one such species. Today it is endangered, and known to breed only on the islands of Hawaii, Maui, Lanai and Kauai. Historical records indicate that a large population formerly bred on Molokai as well, but this population has recently been extirpated. Given the great dispersal potential of these petrels, it remains unclear if populations are genetically distinct and which factors may contribute to isolation between them. We sampled petrels from across their range, including individuals from the presumably extirpated Molokai population. We sequenced 524 bp of mitochondrial DNA, 741 bp from three nuclear introns, and genotyped 18 microsatellite loci in order to examine the patterns of divergence in this species and to investigate the potential underlying mechanisms. Both mitochondrial and nuclear data sets indicated significant genetic differentiation among all modern populations, but no differentiation was found between historic samples from Molokai and modern birds from Lanai. Population-specific nonbreeding distribution and strong natal philopatry may reduce gene flow between populations. However, the lack of population structure between extirpated Molokai birds and modern birds on Lanai indicates that there was substantial gene flow between these populations and that petrels may be able to overcome barriers to dispersal prior to complete extirpation. Hawaiian petrel populations could be considered distinct management units, however, the dwindling population on Hawaii may require translocation to prevent extirpation in the near future.
Cytochrome b; intron; microsatellite; population; Hawaiian petrel; Pterodroma sandwichensis
Glia regulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis in birds and mammals. This is accomplished mechanically by ensheathing gonadotrophin-releasing hormone I (GnRH) nerve terminals thereby blocking access to the pituitary blood supply, or chemically in a paracrine manner. Such regulation requires appropriate spatial associations between glia and nerve terminals. Female turkeys (Meleagris gallavapo) use day length as a primary breeding cue. Long days activate the HPG-axis until the hen enters a photorefractory state when previously stimulatory day lengths no longer support HPG-axis activity. Hens must then be exposed to short days before reactivation of the reproductive axis occurs. As adult hens have discrete inactive reproductive states in addition to a fertile state, they are useful for examining the glial contribution to reproductive function. We immunostained tuberal hypothalami from short and long-day photosensitive hens, plus long-day photorefractory hens to examine expression of two intermediate filaments that affect glial morphology: glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and vimentin. GFAP expression was drastically reduced in the central median eminence of long day photosensitive hens, especially within the internal zone. Vimentin expression was similar among groups. However, vimentin-immunoreactive fibers abutting the portal vasculature were significantly negatively correlated with GFAP expression in the median eminence, which is consistent with our hypothesis for a reciprocal relationship between GFAP and vimentin expression. It appears that up-regulation of GFAP expression in the central median eminence of turkey hens is associated with periods of reproductive quiescence and that photofractoriness is associated with the lack of a glial cytoskeletal response to long days.
Meleagris gallavapo; GnRH; glia; GFAP; vimentin; photoperiod
Leptin has been considered a link between metabolic state and reproductive activity. Defective reproductive function can occur in leptin-deficient and leptin-excessive conditions. The aim of this study was to examine the effects of centrally injected leptin on the hypothalamic KiSS-1 system in relation to gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) action in the initial stage of puberty.
Leptin (1 µg) was injected directly into the ventricle of pubertal female mice. The resultant gene expressions of hypothalamic GnRH and KiSS-1 and pituitary LH, 2 and 4 hours after injection, were compared with those of saline-injected control mice. The changes in the gene expressions after blocking the GnRH action were also analyzed.
The basal expression levels of KiSS-1, GnRH, and LH were significantly higher in the pubertal mice than in the prepubertal mice. The 1-µg leptin dose significantly decreased the mRNA expression levels of KiSS-1, GnRH, and LH in the pubertal mice. A GnRH antagonist significantly increased the KiSS-1 and GnRH mRNA expression levels, and the additional leptin injection decreased the gene expression levels compared with those in the control group.
The excess leptin might have suppressed the central reproductive axis in the pubertal mice by inhibiting the KiSS-1 expression, and this mechanism is independent of the GnRH-LH-estradiol feedback loop.
Leptin; KiSS-1; Gonadotropin-releasing hormone; Luteinizing hormone; Puberty
Animals coordinate their physiological state with external cues to appropriately time reproduction. These external cues exert effects through influences on the gonadotropin-releasing hormone neurons (GnRH), at the apex of the hypothalamus-pituitary-gonad (HPG) axis. In green treefrogs, mating calls are important regulators of reproductive behavior and physiology. Reception of mating calls causes an increase in androgen levels, and androgens promote the production of mating calls, demonstrating a mutual influence between the communication and endocrine systems. In order to investigate the central nervous system correlates of social regulation of the HPG axis in green treefrogs, we exposed males to a mating chorus or a control stimulus (tones), counted the resulting number of septopreoptic GnRH-immunoreactive cells (GnRH-ir), and measured changes in plasma androgens. We found that reception of the mating chorus caused an increase in the number of GnRH-ir cells. As previously shown, we also found that the reception of the mating chorus resulted in higher androgen levels, suggesting that the higher GnRH-ir cell number represents increased GnRH production and release. We suggest that mating calls are an important supplementary cue that promotes GnRH production and release within the context of GnRH regulation by seasonal cues. Previous studies have proposed a neuroanatomical link between the anuran auditory system and GnRH neurons. Our results demonstrate a functional role for this proposed sensory-endocrine circuit, and show for the first time an influence of acoustic signals on GnRH neurons.
GnRH; Amphibian; Treefrog; Acoustic communication; Androgens; Supplementary reproductive cue
The effects of decreasing the frequency of pulsatile gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) stimulation on pituitary responsiveness were studied in (a) men with isolated GnRH deficiency who had achieved normal sex steroid levels during prior long-term pulsatile GnRH replacement and (b) perifused dispersed pituitary cells from male rats in the absence of sex steroids. In three groups of four GnRH-deficient men, the frequency of GnRH stimulation was decreased at weekly intervals from (a) every 2-3-4 h (group I), (b) every 2-8 h without testosterone replacement (group II), or (c) every 2-8 h with testosterone replacement (group III). In three groups of three columns of perifused dispersed pituitary cells, pulses of GnRH were administered every 2, 4, or 8 h. In groups I and II, mean area under the luteinizing hormone (LH) curve increased (P less than 0.025) and serum testosterone levels fell (P less than 0.035) as the frequency of GnRH stimulation was decreased. In group III, the area under the LH curve also increased (P less than 0.01) although serum testosterone levels were constant, thereby demonstrating that the increase in pituitary responsiveness to slow frequencies of GnRH stimulation occurs independently of changes in the sex steroid hormonal milieu. The area under the LH curve also increased in the perifused dispersed rat pituitary cells when the frequency of GnRH administration was decreased to every 8 h (P less than 0.05), thus demonstrating that the enhanced pituitary responsiveness to slow frequencies of GnRH stimulation is maintained even in the complete absence of gonadal steroids. Nadir LH levels fell in all three groups (P less than 0.01) as the frequency of GnRH stimulation was decreased. In contrast, mean peak LH levels, the rate of LH rise, and the rate of endogenous LH decay were constant as the frequency of GnRH stimulation was decreased. Finally, as the GnRH interpulse interval increased, mean LH levels fell, and mean follicle-stimulating hormone levels were stable or fell. These results indicate that (a) pituitary responsiveness to GnRH increases at slower frequencies of GnRH stimulation in models both in vivo and in vitro, (b) these changes in pituitary responsiveness occur independently of changes in gonadal steroid secretion, and (c) the increases in LH pulse amplitude and area under the curve at slow frequencies of GnRH stimulation are due to decreases in nadir, but not peak, LH levels. Slowing of the frequency of GnRH secretion may be an important independent variable in the control of pituitary gonadotropin secretion.