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Endocr Dev. 2016;29:1-16. doi: 10.1159/000438840. Epub 2015 Dec 17.

The Emerging Role of Epigenetics in the Regulation of Female Puberty.


In recent years the pace of discovering the molecular and genetic underpinnings of the pubertal process has accelerated considerably. Genes required for human puberty to occur have been identified and evidence has been provided suggesting that the initiation of puberty requires coordinated changes in the output of a multiplicity of genes organized into functional networks. Recent evidence suggests that a dual mechanism of epigenetic regulation affecting the transcriptional activity of neurons involved in stimulating gonadotropin-releasing hormone release plays a fundamental role in the timing of puberty. The Polycomb group (PcG) of transcriptional silencers appears to be a major component of the repressive arm of this mechanism. PcG proteins prevent the premature initiation of female puberty by silencing the Kiss1 gene in kisspeptin neurons of the arcuate nucleus (ARC) of the hypothalamus. Because the abundance of histone marks either catalyzed by--or associated with--the Trithorax group (TrxG) of transcriptional activators increases at the time when PcG control subsides, it appears that the TrxG complex is the counteracting partner of PcG-mediated gene silencing. In this chapter, we discuss the concept that a switch from epigenetic repression to activation within ARC kisspeptin neurons is a core mechanism underlying the initiation of female puberty.

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