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PLoS One. 2010 Apr 14;5(4):e10172. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0010172.

Enhanced glutamatergic and decreased GABAergic synaptic appositions to GnRH neurons on proestrus in the rat: modulatory effect of aging.

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  • 1Institute of Molecular Medicine and Genetics, Developmental Neurobiology Program, Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, Georgia, United States of America.



Previous work by our lab and others has implicated glutamate as a major excitatory signal to gonadotropin hormone releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons, with gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) serving as a potential major inhibitory signal. However, it is unknown whether GABAergic and/or glutamatergic synaptic appositions to GnRH neurons changes on the day of the proestrous LH surge or is affected by aging.


To examine this question, synaptic terminal appositions on GnRH neurons for VGAT (vesicular GABA transporter) and VGLUT2 (vesicular glutamate transporter-2), markers of GABAergic and glutamatergic synaptic terminals, respectively, was examined by immunohistochemistry and confocal microscopic analysis in young and middle-aged diestrous and proestrous rats. The results show that in young proestrous rats at the time of LH surge, we observed reciprocal changes in the VGAT and VGLUT2 positive terminals apposing GnRH neurons, where VGAT terminal appositions were decreased and VGLUT2 terminal appositions were significantly increased, as compared to young diestrus control animals. Interestingly, in middle-aged cycling animals this divergent modulation of VGAT and VGLUT2 terminal apposition was greatly impaired, as no significant differences were observed between VGAT and VGLUT2 terminals apposing GnRH neurons at proestrous. However, the density of VGAT and VGLUT2 terminals apposing GnRH neurons were both significantly increased in the middle-aged animals.


In conclusion, there is an increase in glutamatergic and decrease in GABAergic synaptic terminal appositions on GnRH neurons on proestrus in young animals, which may serve to facilitate activation of GnRH neurons. In contrast, middle-aged diestrous and proestrous animals show a significant increase in both VGAT and VGLUT synaptic terminal appositions on GnRH neurons as compared to young animals, and the cycle-related change in these appositions between diestrus and proestrus that is observed in young animals is lost.

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