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In vivo imaging of the GnRH pulse generator reveals a temporal order of neuronal activation and synchronization during each pulse


Authors: Aleisha M. Moore, Lique M. Coolen, and Michael N. Lehman
Publication: PNAS
Date: February 8, 2022
Link to article: https://www.pnas.org/content/119/6/e2117767119


A hypothalamic pulse generator located in the arcuate nucleus controls episodic release of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) and is essential for reproduction. Recent evidence suggests this generator is composed of arcuate “KNDy” cells, the abbreviation based on coexpression of kisspeptin, neurokinin B, and dynorphin. However, direct visual evidence of KNDy neuron activity at a single-cell level during a pulse is lacking. Here, we use in vivo calcium imaging in freely moving female mice to show that individual KNDy neurons are synchronously activated in an episodic manner, and these synchronized episodes always precede LH pulses. Furthermore, synchronization among KNDy cells occurs in a temporal order, with some subsets of KNDy cells serving as “leaders” and others as “followers” during each synchronized episode. These results reveal an unsuspected temporal organization of activation and synchronization within the GnRH pulse generator, suggesting that different subsets of KNDy neurons are activated at pulse onset than afterward during maintenance and eventual termination of each pulse. Further studies to distinguish KNDy “leader” from “follower” cells is likely to have important clinical significance, since regulation of pulsatile GnRH secretion is essential for normal reproduction and disrupted in pathological conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome and hypothalamic amenorrhea.

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