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Neurokinin B is critical for normal timing of sexual maturation but dispensable for adult reproductive function in female mice.

ABSTRACT

Humans carrying mutations in neurokinin B (NKB) or the NKB receptor fail to undergo puberty due to decreased secretion of GnRH. Despite this pubertal delay, many of these patients go on to achieve activation of their hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis in adulthood, a phenomenon termed reversal, indicating that NKB signaling may play a more critical role for the timing of pubertal development than adult reproductive function. NKB receptor-deficient mice are hypogonadotropic but have no defects in the timing of sexual maturation. The current study has performed the first phenotypic evaluation of mice bearing mutations in Tac2, the gene encoding the NKB ligand, to determine whether they have impaired sexual development similar to their human counterparts. Male Tac2-/- mice showed no difference in the timing of sexual maturation or fertility compared with wild-type littermates and were fertile. In contrast, Tac2-/- females had profound delays in sexual maturation, with time to vaginal opening and first estrus occurring significantly later than controls, and initial abnormalities in estrous cycles. However, cycling recovered in adulthood and Tac2-/- females were fertile, although they produced fewer pups per litter. Thus, female Tac2-/- mice parallel humans harboring NKB pathway mutations, with delayed sexual maturation and activation of the reproductive cascade later in life. Moreover, direct comparison of NKB ligand and receptor-deficient females confirmed that only NKB ligand-deficient animals have delayed sexual maturation, suggesting that in the absence of the NKB receptor, NKB may regulate the timing of sexual maturation through other tachykinin receptors.