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Gen Comp Endocrinol. 2001 Dec;124(3):277-84.

Induction of gamete release by gonadotropin-releasing hormone in a protochordate, Ciona intestinalis.

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Department of Regulation-Biology, Saitama University, 225 Shimo-Okubo, Saitama 338-8570, Japan.


Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) of vertebrates is now believed to have multiple functions in addition to its role as a hypophysiotropic hormone, as originally defined. Recently, it has been shown that GnRH occurs also in the ascidians, which are considered ancestral chordates. Here the author shows that GnRH induces spawning of gametes from mature individuals of Ciona intestinalis. Ciona accumulates mature gametes in the gonoducts and maintains them until spawning is triggered by a photoperiodic cue(s). Injection of synthetic tunicate GnRH-I or -II into various sites of mature individuals effectively induced gamete release (spawning), although the former was more potent. Gamete release often occurred on a larger scale than in spontaneous spawning. However, moderate gamete release, similar to spontaneous spawning, was often triggered by exogenous tunicate GnRH. GnRH in vivo apparently is released from the GnRH-containing neurons that are distributed from the region of the cerebral ganglion to the proximal part of the ovary along the dorsal strand within the blood sinus; this indicates that both forms of tunicate GnRH may be the actual inducers of spawning. It is suggested that, in the ancestral chordate, GnRH neurons release GnRH prior to the spawning and the released GnRH acts directly on the epithelium of gonoducts or functions as a neuromodulator of other neurons innervating the gonoducts to induce spawning.

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