Uncovering Novel Reproductive Defects in Neurokinin B Receptor Null Mice: Closing the Gap Between Mice and Men

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Patients bearing mutations in TAC3 and TACR3 (which encode neurokinin B and its receptor, respectively) have sexual infantilism and infertility due to GnRH deficiency. In contrast, Tacr3−/− mice have previously been reported to be fertile. Because of this apparent phenotypic discordance between mice and men bearing disabling mutations in Tacr3/TACR3, Tacr3 null mice were phenotyped with close attention to pubertal development, estrous cyclicity, and fertility. Tacr3−/− mice demonstrated normal timing of preputial separation and day of first estrus, markers of sexual maturation. However, at postnatal d 60, Tacr3−/− males had significantly smaller testes and lower FSH levels than their wild-type littermates. Tacr3−/− females had lower uterine weights and abnormal estrous cyclicity. Approximately half of Tacr3−/− females had no detectable corpora lutea on ovarian histology at postnatal d 60. Despite this apparent ovulatory defect, all Tacr3−/− females achieved fertility when mated. However, Tacr3−/− females were subfertile, having both reduced numbers of litters and pups per litter. The subfertility of these animals was not due to a primary ovarian defect, because they demonstrated a robust response to exogenous gonadotropins. Thus, although capable of fertility, Tacr3-deficient mice have central reproductive defects. The remarkable ability of acyclic female Tacr3 null mice to achieve fertility is reminiscent of the reversal of hypogonadotropic hypogonadism seen in a high proportion of human patients bearing mutations in TACR3. Tacr3 mice are a useful model to examine the mechanisms by which neurokinin B signaling modulates GnRH release.

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