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J Comp Neurol. 1997 Aug 11;384(4):569-79.

Evidence for a direct neuronal pathway from the suprachiasmatic nucleus to the gonadotropin-releasing hormone system: combined tracing and light and electron microscopic immunocytochemical studies.

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Department of Human and Animal Physiology, Agricultural University, Wageningen, The Netherlands.


The timing and occurrence of the preovulatory luteinizing hormone (LH) surge in the female rodent are critically dependent on the integrity of the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). Destruction of the SCN leads to a cessation of the ovarian cycle, whereas implantation of estrogen in ovariectomized rats results in daily LH surges. The anatomical substrate for these effects is not known. Previous studies involving lesions of the SCN have suggested the presence of a direct vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP)-containing pathway to gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons. To further investigate the direct connection between the SCN and the GnRH system, we have used tract-tracing with the anterograde tracer Phaseolus vulgaris-leucoagglutinin (PhaL) in combination with an immunocytochemical staining for GnRH in light and electron microscopic studies. Small, unilateral PhaL deposits, especially when they were placed in the rostral ventrolateral portion of the SCN, revealed a bilateral projection to the preoptic area, where PhaL-immunoreactive fibers were regularly found in close apposition to GnRH neurons. Ultrastructural studies showed synaptic interaction of PhaL-containing fibers with GnRH-immunoreactive (IR) cell bodies, thus demonstrating a direct SCN-GnRH connection. Taken together, these data provide evidence for the existence of a monosynaptic pathway from the SCN to the GnRH system in the hypothalamus of the female rat. We suggest that this pathway may contain at least VIP as a putative transmitter and may play a role in the circadian regulation of the estrous cycle in the female rat.

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