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Endocrinology. 2003 Oct;144(10):4484-91. Epub 2003 Jul 3.

Gonadotropin-releasing hormone secretion from hypothalamic neurons: stimulation by insulin and potentiation by leptin.

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Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Lausanne Medical School, Switzerland.


Insulin and leptin are peripheral metabolic factors signaling the body needs in energy to the central nervous system. Because energy homeostasis and reproductive function are closely related phenomena, we investigated the respective roles played by insulin and leptin in the hypothalamic control of GnRH secretion. We observed that increasing circulating insulin levels, by performing hyperinsulinemic clamp studies in male mice, was associated with a significant rise in LH secretion. This effect of insulin is likely mediated at the hypothalamic level, because it was also found to stimulate the secretion and the expression of GnRH by hypothalamic neurons in culture. Leptin was found to potentiate the effect of insulin on GnRH secretion in vitro but was devoid of any effect on its own. These data represent the first evidence of direct insulin sensing by hypothalamic neurons involved in activating the neuroendocrine gonadotrope axis. They also demonstrate that these neurons can integrate different hormonal signals to modulate net hypothalamic GnRH output. We propose that such integration is an essential mechanism for the adaptation of reproductive function to changes in the metabolic status of an individual.

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