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Nature. 2000 Sep 21;407(6802):377-82.

IRS-2 pathways integrate female reproduction and energy homeostasis.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Joslin Diabetes Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.


Severe dietary restriction, catabolic states and even short-term caloric deprivation impair fertility in mammals. Likewise, obesity is associated with infertile conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome. The reproductive status of lower organisms such as Caenorhabditis elegans is also modulated by availability of nutrients. Thus, fertility requires the integration of reproductive and metabolic signals. Here we show that deletion of insulin receptor substrate-2 (IRS-2), a component of the insulin/insulin-like growth factor-1 signalling cascade, causes female infertility. Mice lacking IRS-2 have small, anovulatory ovaries with reduced numbers of follicles. Plasma concentrations of luteinizing hormone, prolactin and sex steroids are low in these animals. Pituitaries are decreased in size and contain reduced numbers of gonadotrophs. Females lacking IRS-2 have increased food intake and obesity, despite elevated levels of leptin. Our findings indicate that insulin, together with leptin and other neuropeptides, may modulate hypothalamic control of appetite and reproductive endocrinology. Coupled with findings on the role of insulin-signalling pathways in the regulation of fertility, metabolism and longevity in C. elegans and Drosophila, we have identified an evolutionarily conserved mechanism in mammals that regulates both reproduction and energy homeostasis.

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