Indexed on: 04 Sep '04Published on: 04 Sep '04Published in: Journal of Neuroendocrinology
Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) is the central neuroendocrine regulator of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis. Multiple structural variants of GnRH are present in vertebrates. The first isoform isolated in the mammalian brain (GnRH I) was shown to regulate the release of pituitary gonadotropins. Recently, a second form has been discovered in mammals (GnRH II), both in the brain and periphery. Although it is unlikely to be a primary regulator of gonadotropin release, the highly conserved GnRH II variant appears to have a wide array of physiological functions. In the periphery, GnRH I and II have similar roles in regulating cell proliferation and mediating hormonal secretion from the ovary and placenta in an autocrine/paracrine manner. In the brain, GnRH I and II apparently modulate mammalian reproductive behaviours in different but complementary ways: GnRH I stimulates luteinizing hormone/follicle-stimulating hormone secretion (and thus gonadal steroids) and promotes sexual behaviour in ad libitum fed animals. By contrast, GnRH II acts as a permissive regulator of female reproductive behaviour based on energy status, as well as a modifier of short-term food intake. GnRH II has also been implicated in the regulation of calcium and potassium channels in nervous systems of amphibians, functions which may also be present in mammals. Increasing evidence suggests that the effects of GnRH II in both the periphery and brain may be mediated by GnRH receptor subtypes distinct from the type-1 GnRH receptor. It is likely that this evolutionarily conserved peptide has been co-opted over evolutionary time to possess multiple regulatory functions in a broad range of biological aspects, including, but not limited to, reproduction. Here, the proposed actions of both neural and peripheral GnRH II in affecting physiology and behaviour are summarized, and an outline of critical directions for future research is proposed.