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Horm Behav. 2008 Nov;54(5):669-75. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2008.07.005. Epub 2008 Jul 29.

Courtship interactions stimulate rapid changes in GnRH synthesis in male ring doves.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, PO Box 413, Milwaukee, WI 53201, USA.


Many birds and mammals show changes in the hypothalamo-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis in response to social or sexual interactions between breeding partners. While alterations in GnRH neuronal activity play an important role in stimulating these changes, it remains unclear if acute behaviorally-induced alterations in GnRH release are accompanied by parallel changes in GnRH synthesis. To investigate this relationship, we examined changes in the activity of GnRH neurons in the brains of male ring doves following brief periods of courtship interactions with females. Such interactions have been previously shown to increase plasma LH in courting male doves at 24 h, but not at 1 h, after pairing with females. In the first study, males allowed to court females for 2 h had 60% more cells that showed immunocytochemical labeling for GnRH-I in the preoptic area (POA) of the hypothalamus than did control males that remained isolated from females. To determine whether an increase in GnRH gene expression preceded this increase in GnRH immunoreactivity in the POA, changes in the number of cells with detectable GnRH-I mRNA in the POA were measured by in situ hybridization following a 1 h period of courtship interactions with females. In this second study, courting males exhibited 40% more cells with GnRH-I in this region than did isolated control males. GnRH-immunoreactive neurons in two other diencephalic regions failed to show these courtship-induced changes. Plasma LH was not elevated after 1 or 2 h of courtship. These results demonstrate that the release of GnRH-I in the POA that is presumably responsible for courtship-induced pituitary and gonadal activation is accompanied by a rapid increase in GnRH synthesis that occurs before plasma LH levels increase. We suggest that this increase in GnRH synthesis is necessary to support the extended period of HPG axis activation that is seen in this species during the 5-10 day period of courtship and nest building activity.

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