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Neuroendocrinology. 2003 Apr;77(4):246-57.

Regulation of gonadotropin releasing hormone release by neuropeptide Y at the median eminence during the preovulatory period in ewes.

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Department of Animal Sciences, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.


The median eminence (ME) of the hypothalamus is known to be an important brain site where hypophysiotropic release might be regulated by excitatory and inhibitory signals impinging on their neuronal terminals. Since a role for neuropeptide Y (NPY) on preovulatory luteinizing hormone (LH) release has been suggested, we hypothesized that NPY might act at the ME to control preovulatory gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) release and thus the onset of the preovulatory surge of LH. To examine this possibility, we used the ewe as an animal model to determine: (a) immunocytochemical distribution of GnRH and NPY in the ewe ME; (b) changes in in vivo release of NPY and GnRH using ME push-pull cannula (PPC) perfusate samples, as well as in plasma LH, during the luteal, follicular and preovulatory phases of a synchronized estrous cycle, and (c) effects of ME perfusion of NPY or a Y1-NPY antagonist, or an NPY antiserum on in vivo release of ME-GnRH and plasma LH during a synchronized follicular phase. Immunolocalization reveals a dense plexus of beaded GnRH-containing neurites in the arcuate nucleus and in its vicinity, the pituitary stalk and the palisade. In contrast, a dense plexus of NPY-containing neurites occurs in the internal layer, with occasional fibers found in the intermediate and lateral external zone of the ME. In the area between the lateral internal and lateral external layers, both NPY and GnRH-containing processes were found, thus providing opportunities for synaptic and/or paracrine interactions between NPY- and GnRH-containing neurons. Hormonal analysis indicated that a synchronized preovulatory surge of LH is elicited within a 2-hour window by the sequential implantation and removal of silastic-encased estradiol (E2) or progesterone (P4) implants. In this paradigm, there was a parallel increase in ME release of both NPY and GnRH preceding the synchronized LH surge. The onset of this synchronized LH surge was advanced by ME perfusion of exogenous NPY and was both delayed and blunted by ME perfusion with the NPY antagonist (both were perfused through the PPC probe for 2 h, starting 2-3 h before the expected onset of the LH surge). In addition, NPY perfusion in the ME increases, while perfusion of the Y1-NPY antagonist or of the NPY antiserum decreases ME-PPC GnRH content and plasma levels of LH in early follicular ewes. Finally, perfusion of NPY antiserum during an ongoing LH surge disrupted LH release. These results suggest that interactions between NPY and GnRH neurons are important in controlling the timing, magnitude and maintenance of the preovulatory LH surge.

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