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Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 1984 Dec;18(5-6):365-73.

Endogenous opioid peptides and the control of the menstrual cycle.


This paper reviews recent experimental evidence which supports a role for endogenous opioid peptides in the control of gonadotropin function. In primates, cell bodies containing endogenous opioid peptides have been located within the hypothalamus in areas rich in gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) and dopamine. The release of beta-endorphin from these hypothalamic neurons is influenced by gonadal steroids, maximal release being observed when both estradiol and progesterone are present. beta-Endorphin has been shown to decrease LH secretion, and naloxone, an opiate antagonist, reverses this action. The LH-releasing activity of naloxone parallels variations in hypothalamic beta-endorphin secretory activity, so that maximal effects are seen during the luteal phase of the cycle. Present evidence indicates that opiates exert their effect on LH via a hypothalamic site. It is concluded that increased opioid inhibition of the GnRH-LH axis is responsible for the decline in LH pulse frequency during the luteal phase. The studies provide evidence for a chemical basis rationalizing relationships between reproductive function and stress, and have further implication on other forms of amenorrhea.

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