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Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2012 Mar 5;3:26. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2012.00026. eCollection 2012.

Sense and nonsense in metabolic control of reproduction.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Lehigh University Bethlehem, PA, USA.


An exciting synergistic interaction occurs among researchers working at the interface of reproductive biology and energy homeostasis. Reproductive biologists benefit from the theories, experimental designs, and methodologies used by experts on energy homeostasis while they bring context and meaning to the study of energy homeostasis. There is a growing recognition that identification of candidate genes for obesity is little more than meaningless reductionism unless those genes and their expression are placed in a developmental, environmental, and evolutionary context. Reproductive biology provides this context because metabolic energy is the most important factor that controls reproductive success and gonadal hormones affect energy intake, storage, and expenditure. Reproductive hormone secretion changes during development, and reproductive success is key to evolutionary adaptation, the process that most likely molded the mechanisms that control energy balance. It is likely that by viewing energy intake, storage, and expenditure in the context of reproductive success, we will gain insight into human obesity, eating disorders, diabetes, and other pathologies related to fuel homeostasis. This review emphasizes the metabolic hypothesis: a sensory system monitors the availability of oxidizable metabolic fuels and orchestrates behavioral motivation to optimize reproductive success in environments where energy availability fluctuates or is unpredictable.


appetitive behavior; hoarding; metabolic hypothesis; motivation; nutritional infertility; sex behavior; vaginal scent marking

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