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Horm Res Paediatr. 2014;82(2):73-80. doi: 10.1159/000362414. Epub 2014 Jul 5.

Activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis in infancy: minipuberty.

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Department of Pediatrics, Kuopio University Hospital, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland.


The hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis is active in the midgestational foetus but silenced towards term because of the negative feedback effects mediated by the placental hormones. This restraint is removed at birth, leading to reactivation of the axis and an increase in gonadotrophin levels. Gonadotrophin levels are high during the first 3 months of life but decrease towards the age of 6 months except for FSH levels in girls that remain elevated until 3-4 years of age. After this, the HPG axis remains quiescent until puberty. The postnatal gonadotrophin surge results in gonadal activation in both sexes. In boys, testosterone levels rise to a peak at 1-3 months of age and then decline following LH levels. Postnatal HPG axis activation is associated with penile and testicular growth and therefore considered important for the development of male genitalia. In girls, elevated gonadotrophin levels result in the maturation of ovarian follicles and in an increase in oestradiol levels. Biological significance and possible long-term consequences of this minipuberty remain elusive, as do the mechanisms that silence the HPG axis until puberty. However, the first months of life provide a 'window of opportunity' for functional studies of the HPG axis prior to pubertal development.

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