Understanding the regulation of the human menstrual cycle represents an important ultimate challenge of reproductive neuroendocrine research. However, direct translation of information from laboratory animal experiments to the human is often complicated by strikingly different and unique reproductive strategies and central regulatory mechanisms that can be present in even closely related animal species. In all mammals studied so far, type-I gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) synthesizing neurons form the final common output way from the hypothalamus in the neuroendocrine control of the adenohypophysis. Under various physiological and pathological conditions, hormonal and metabolic signals either regulate GnRH neurons directly or act on upstream neuronal circuitries to influence the pattern of pulsatile GnRH secretion into the hypophysial portal circulation. Neuronal afferents to GnRH cells convey important metabolic-, stress-, sex steroid-, lactational-, and circadian signals to the reproductive axis, among other effects. This article gives an overview of the available neuroanatomical literature that described the afferent regulation of human GnRH neurons by peptidergic, monoaminergic, and amino acidergic neuronal systems. Recent studies of human genetics provided evidence that central peptidergic signaling by kisspeptins and neurokinin B (NKB) play particularly important roles in puberty onset and later, in the sex steroid-dependent feedback regulation of GnRH neurons. This review article places special emphasis on the topographic distribution, sexual dimorphism, aging-dependent neuroanatomical changes, and plastic connectivity to GnRH neurons of the critically important human hypothalamic kisspeptin and NKB systems.
- GnRH neurons
- Infundibular nucleus
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism