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Neuroendocrinology. 1999 Apr;69(4):238-44.

Photoperiod affects the gonadotropin-releasing hormone neuronal system of male prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster).

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Behavioral Neuroendocrinology Group, Departments of Psychology, Division of Reproductive Biology, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md., USA.


In order to maximize survival, animals inhabiting temperate and boreal latitudes exhibit numerous adaptations to changing seasons. Central among this suite of coping strategies is the cessation of breeding during the suboptimal conditions of winter. Many nontropical rodents inhibit reproduction well in advance of winter in response to short day lengths. Male prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster) are small temperate-zone rodents that vary in their reproductive response to photoperiod. Some male voles undergo complete gonadal regression during short days (responders) while others fail to inhibit reproduction when exposed to short day lengths (nonresponders). The neuroendocrine mechanisms regulating this differential response to photoperiod have not been investigated in this species. Presumably, photoperiod can act at any or all levels of the hypothalamo-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis to regulate reproduction. The present study sought to determine the contribution of the GnRH system to this variable reproductive response to photoperiod. Male prairie voles were housed in either long or short day lengths for 10 weeks. As shown with immunohistochemistry, voles that underwent gonadal regression in response to short photoperiods exhibited increased GnRH neuron numbers in the preoptic area/anterior hypothalamus (POA/AH) relative to both long-day animals and short-day voles that maintained reproductive function. Mean optical density of staining and cell size did not differ among groups. These data suggest that the differential reproductive response to photoperiod in male voles is mediated, in part, by alterations in the GnRH neuronal system.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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