A pinboard by
Michelle Bedenbaugh

Graduate Research Assistant, West Virginia University


Striving to better understand puberty to improve lifetime health in women

Puberty. Is anyone having flashbacks to a younger, more awkward version of themselves? How do we transition from being cute kids to adults? We know that many physical changes occur during puberty, however, some of the changes that occur on a much smaller scale, particularly within the brain, remain relatively unknown. Over the past few decades, children in the United States, and girls in particular, have been reaching puberty at much younger ages. In the 1980s, the average age in which a girl reached puberty was 13. By 2010, this age had decreased all the way to 11 and is continuing to decline. Reaching puberty at younger ages predisposes girls to several adverse health outcomes, including obesity, emotional distress, and several reproductive diseases, like polycystic ovarian syndrome. Therefore, if we can better understand some of the signaling pathways that are involved in the initiation of puberty, we can hopefully help to alleviate some of these issues in the future. And that’s where my research comes into play. Puberty is a really complex event. There isn’t one single molecule that is controlling the entire process. It’s a team sport. There are a lot of different players that are involved and that are necessary to reach the ultimate goal of puberty and reproductive maturity. My dissertation research has focused on several of these players. One of them, called Neurokinin B, acts in adult animals within a specific area of the brain called the preoptic area. When Neurokinin B is given in the preoptic area of adults, it causes a huge increase in hormone secretion. However, if you give this same molecule, in the same area, of prepubertal animals, we do not see this large increase in hormone secretion. Therefore, this indicates that critical changes may be occurring with Neurokinin B in the preoptic area as animals transition from a prepubertal to a postpubertal state. Hopefully, with this information, we come one step close to solving the mystery that is puberty, decrease the number of girls that are negatively affected by reaching puberty at too young of an age, and finally understand how we transition from being cute little kids adults.


Exogenous kisspeptin administration as a probe of GnRH neuronal function in patients with idiopathic hypogonadotropic hypogonadism.

Abstract: Idiopathic hypogonadotropic hypogonadism (IHH) results from defective synthesis, secretion, or action of GnRH. Kisspeptin is a potent stimulus for GnRH secretion.We probed the functional capacity of the GnRH neuronal network in patients with IHH.Eleven subjects with congenital IHH (9 men and 2 women) and one male subject who underwent reversal of IHH were studied. Six of the twelve subjects had an identified genetic cause of their IHH: KAL1 (n = 1), FGFR1 (n = 3), PROKR2 (n = 1), GNRHR (n = 1).Subjects underwent q10 min blood sampling to measure GnRH-induced LH secretion at baseline and in response to intravenous boluses of kisspeptin (0.24 nmol/kg) and GnRH (75 ng/kg) both pre- and post-six days of treatment with exogenous GnRH (25 ng/kg sc every 2 h).All subjects with abiding IHH failed to demonstrate a GnRH-induced LH response to exogenous kisspeptin. In contrast, the subject who achieved reversal of his hypogonadotropism demonstrated a robust response to kisspeptin.The functional capacity of the GnRH neuronal network in IHH patients is impaired, as evidenced by their inability to respond to the same dose of kisspeptin that effects a robust GnRH-induced LH response in healthy men and luteal-phase women. This impairment is observed across a range of genotypes, suggesting that it reflects a fundamental property of GnRH neuronal networks that have not been properly engaged during pubertal development. In contrast, a patient who had experienced reversal of his hypogonadotropism responded to exogenous kisspeptin.

Pub.: 17 Sep '14, Pinned: 30 Jun '17

The integrated hypothalamic tachykinin-kisspeptin system as a central coordinator for reproduction.

Abstract: Tachykinins are comprised of the family of related peptides, substance P (SP), neurokinin A (NKA), and neurokinin B (NKB). NKB has emerged as regulator of kisspeptin release in the arcuate nucleus (ARC), whereas the roles of SP and NKA in reproduction remain unknown. This work explores the roles of SP and NKA in the central regulation of GnRH release. First, central infusion of specific agonists for the receptors of SP (neurokinin receptor 1, NK1R), NKA (NK2R) and NKB (NK3R) each induced gonadotropin release in adult male and ovariectomized, estradiol-replaced female mice, which was absent in Kiss1r(-/-) mice, indicating a kisspeptin-dependent action. The NK2R agonist, however, decreased LH release in ovariectomized-sham replaced females, as documented for NK3R agonists but in contrast to the NK1R agonist, which further increased LH release. Second, Tac1 (encoding SP and NKA) expression in the ARC and ventromedial nucleus was inhibited by circulating estradiol but did not colocalize with Kiss1 mRNA. Third, about half of isolated ARC Kiss1 neurons expressed Tacr1 (NK1R) and 100% Tacr3 (NK3R); for anteroventral-periventricular Kiss1 neurons and GnRH neurons, approximately one-fourth expressed Tacr1 and one-tenth Tacr3; Tacr2 (NK2R) expression was absent in all cases. Overall, these results identify a potent regulation of gonadotropin release by the SP/NK1R and NKA/NK2R systems in the presence of kisspeptin-Kiss1r signaling, indicating that they may, along with NKB/NK3R, control GnRH release, at least in part through actions on Kiss1 neurons.

Pub.: 26 Nov '14, Pinned: 30 Jun '17

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.

Pub.: 13 Jan '15, Pinned: 30 Jun '17

Elevated body weight gain during the juvenile period alters neuropeptide Y-gonadotropin-releasing hormone circuitry in prepubertal heifers.

Abstract: Increased body weight (BW) gain during the juvenile period leads to early maturation of the reproductive neuroendocrine system. We investigated whether a nutritional regimen that advances the onset of puberty leads to alterations in the hypothalamic neuropeptide Y (NPY) circuitry that are permissive for enhanced gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) secretion. It was hypothesized that NPY mRNA and NPY projections to GnRH and kisspeptin neurons are reduced in heifers that gain BW at an accelerated rate, compared with a lower one, during the juvenile period. Heifers were weaned at approximately 4 mo of age and fed diets to promote relatively low (0.5 kg/day; low gain [LG]) or high (1.0 kg/day; high gain [HG]) rates of BW gain until 8.5 mo of age. Heifers that gained BW at a higher rate exhibited greater circulating concentrations of leptin and reduced overall NPY expression in the arcuate nucleus. The proportion of GnRH neurons in close apposition to NPY fibers and the magnitude of NPY projections to GnRH neurons located in the mediobasal hypothalamus were reduced in HG heifers. However, no differences in NPY projections to kisspeptin neurons in the arcuate nucleus were detected between HG and LG heifers. Results indicate that a reduction in NPY innervation of GnRH neurons, particularly at the level of the mediobasal hypothalamus, occurs in response to elevated BW gain during the juvenile period. This functional plasticity may facilitate early onset of puberty in heifers.

Pub.: 17 Dec '14, Pinned: 30 Jun '17

Augmentation of Metastin/Kisspeptin mRNA Expression by the Proestrous Luteinizing Hormone Surge in Granulosa Cells of Rats: Implications for Luteinization.

Abstract: Variations in mRNA levels and sources of metastin/kisspeptin, neurokinin B (NKB), dynorphin, and kisspeptin receptor GPR54 were examined in the ovaries of cycling rats. Kisspeptin and dynorphin mRNAs dramatically increased at 2000 h of the proestrous day. NKB mRNA also increased, but the peak was delayed by 6 h. GPR54 mRNA declined inversely with kisspeptin. Whole-ovary expressions of kisspeptin and dynorphin mRNAs, but not of NKB mRNA, were augmented by the administration of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). By means of laser-capture microdissection, kisspeptin mRNA was shown mostly in follicles at 2000 h of proestrus, whereas NKB and dynorphin were expressed mainly in interstitial tissues. GPR54 mRNA was detected equally in follicles, corpora lutea, and interstitial tissues. The hCG stimulated the follicular expression of kisspeptin and interstitial tissue expression of dynorphin mRNA. In primary cultures of granulosa cells prepared from equine chorionic gonadotropin-pretreated immature rats, hCG stimulated the expression of kisspeptin, dynorphin, and NKB mRNAs. Distortion of the corpus luteum and surrounding tissue borders was sometimes seen after intra-ovarian bursa administration of kisspeptin antagonist p234 for 3 days from proestrus. Progesterone production stimulated by hCG in granulosa cell culture was suppressed by p234. These data demonstrate that significant amounts of kisspeptin are synthesized in granulosa cells and dynorphin in interstitial tissues, in response to the proestrous luteinizing hormone surge, whereas granulosa cells also contain dynorphin and NKB, suggesting at least a role for kisspeptin in the luteinization of granulosa cells.

Pub.: 23 May '15, Pinned: 30 Jun '17

Kisspeptin, neurokinin B, and dynorphin act in the arcuate nucleus to control activity of the GnRH pulse generator in ewes.

Abstract: Recent work has led to the hypothesis that kisspeptin/neurokinin B/dynorphin (KNDy) neurons in the arcuate nucleus play a key role in GnRH pulse generation, with kisspeptin driving GnRH release and neurokinin B (NKB) and dynorphin acting as start and stop signals, respectively. In this study, we tested this hypothesis by determining the actions, if any, of four neurotransmitters found in KNDy neurons (kisspeptin, NKB, dynorphin, and glutamate) on episodic LH secretion using local administration of agonists and antagonists to receptors for these transmitters in ovariectomized ewes. We also obtained evidence that GnRH-containing afferents contact KNDy neurons, so we tested the role of two components of these afferents: GnRH and orphanin-FQ. Microimplants of a Kiss1r antagonist briefly inhibited LH pulses and microinjections of 2 nmol of this antagonist produced a modest transitory decrease in LH pulse frequency. An antagonist to the NKB receptor also decreased LH pulse frequency, whereas NKB and an antagonist to the receptor for dynorphin both increased pulse frequency. In contrast, antagonists to GnRH receptors, orphanin-FQ receptors, and the N-methyl-D-aspartate glutamate receptor had no effect on episodic LH secretion. We thus conclude that the KNDy neuropeptides act in the arcuate nucleus to control episodic GnRH secretion in the ewe, but afferent input from GnRH neurons to this area does not. These data support the proposed roles for NKB and dynorphin within the KNDy neural network and raise the possibility that kisspeptin contributes to the control of GnRH pulse frequency in addition to its established role as an output signal from KNDy neurons that drives GnRH pulses.

Pub.: 21 Aug '13, Pinned: 30 Jun '17

Neurokinin B activates arcuate kisspeptin neurons through multiple tachykinin receptors in the male mouse.

Abstract: Kisspeptin neurons located in the arcuate nucleus (ARN) coexpress dynorphin and neurokinin B (NKB) and may interact to influence gonadotropin secretion. Using a kisspeptin-green fluorescent protein mouse model, the present study examined whether the neuropeptides kisspeptin, dynorphin, and NKB modulate the electrical activity of ARN kisspeptin neurons in the adult male mouse. Cell-attached recordings showed that kisspeptin itself had no effect on kisspeptin neuron firing. Dynorphin and the κ-opioid receptor agonist U50-488 evoked a potent suppression of all ARN kisspeptin neuron firing that was blocked completely by the κ-opioid receptor antagonist nor-Binaltorphimine. Both NKB and Senktide, a neurokinin 3 receptor agonist, exerted a potent stimulatory action on ∼95% of ARN kisspeptin neurons. Although the selective neurokinin 3 receptor antagonists SB222200 and SR142801 blocked the effects of Senktide on kisspeptin neurons, they surprisingly had no effect on NKB activation of firing. Studies with selective neurokinin 1 receptor (SDZ-NKT343) and neurokinin 2 receptor (GR94800) antagonists revealed that the activation of kisspeptin neurons by NKB was only blocked completely by a cocktail of antagonists against all 3 tachykinin receptors. Whole-cell recordings revealed that individual kisspeptin neurons were activated directly by all 3 tachykinins substance, P, neurokinin A, and NKB. These experiments show that dynorphin and NKB have opposing actions on the electrical activity of kisspeptin neurons supporting the existence of an interconnected network of kisspeptin neurons in the ARN. However, the effects of NKB result from an unexpected activation of multiple tachykinin receptors.

Pub.: 08 Jun '13, Pinned: 30 Jun '17