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J Neuroendocrinol. 2012 Feb;24(2):267-74. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2826.2011.02245.x.

Variation in gonadotrophin-releasing hormone-1 gene expression in the preoptic area predicts transitions in seasonal reproductive state.

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  • 1Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA.


In many seasonally reproducing animals, the experience of prolonged exposure to constant photoperiods results in the induction of a state of photorefractoriness, which is defined as a lack of responsiveness to a previously stimulatory photoperiod. The physiological and genetic processes that control photorefractoriness are not well understood; however, the hallmark of photorefractoriness is an endogenous change in the physiological response to a constant photoperiod. It is already known that preoptic area (POA) gnrh1 gene expression declines during the development of refractoriness to long-day stimulation in European starlings. We employed in situ hybridisation histochemistry to characterise changes in POA gnrh1 mRNA expression during the reinstatement of photosensitivity in female starlings. Photorefractory starlings moved to short days (8L:16D) increased optical density of gnrh1 expressing cells within 10 days. Exposure to 30 short days resulted in greater visible gnrh1 cell numbers, with no detectable change in measures of ovarian follicular volume and oviduct mass. We subsequently examined the extent of gnrh1 expression in response to photostimulation after incremental periods on short day lengths. A significant long-day-induced increase in both gnrh1 expression and ovarian and oviduct mass occurred only after at least 30 short days. These findings demonstrate that the recovery of photorefractoriness involves an increase in gnrh1 mRNA expression and expands upon our previous knowledge that the development of photosensitivity is associated with an increase in both the precursor proGnRH1-GAP and GnRH1 peptides in the POA. Importantly, the change in the brain sensitivity occurs well before such changes can be detected via variation in ovarian activity.

© 2011 The Authors. Journal of Neuroendocrinology © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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