Steroid imprinting and modulation of sexual dimorphism in the luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone neuronal system

Francisco José López, István Merchenthaler, Zsolts Liposits, Andrés Negro-Vilar

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1. Sex differences in the control of gonadotropin secretion and reproductive functions are a distinct characteristic in all mammalian species, including humans. Ovulation and cyclicity are among the most distinct neuroendocrine markers of female brain differentiation, along with sex behavioral traits that are also evident in different species. 2. The luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) neuronal system is the prime regulator of neuroendocrine events leading to ovulation and hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle and, as such, is the potential site where many of these sex differences may be expressed or, at the very least, integrated. However, until recently, no significant differences were seen in LHRH neurons between male and female brains, including cell number, pattern of distribution, and expression of message or peptide (LHRH) levels. 3. Recently, we reported that galanin (GAL), a brain-gut peptide, is coexpressed in LHRH neurons and that this coexpression is sexually dimorphic. When GAL is used as a marker for this neuronal system, it is clear that estradiol as well as progesterone profoundly affects the message and expression of the peptide and that this regulation, at least in rodents, is neonatally predetermined by gonadal steroid imprinting. 4. Changes in GAL expression and message can also be seen at puberty, during pregnancy and lactation, and in aging, all situations that affect the function of the LHRH neuronal system. Using an immortalized LHRH neuronal cell line (GT1) we have recently observed that these neurons express estrogen receptor (ER) and GAL and that estradiol can increase the expression of GAL, indicating functional activation of the endogenous ER.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-141
Number of pages13
JournalCellular and Molecular Neurobiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 1996



  • Estrogen
  • Galanin
  • Luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone
  • Sexual dimorphism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology

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