Gonadotropin-releasing hormone: regulation of the GnRH gene

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As the key regulator of reproduction, gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) is released by neurons in the hypothalamus, and transported via the hypothalamo-hypophyseal portal circulation to the anterior pituitary to trigger gonadotropin release for gonadal steroidogenesis and gametogenesis. To achieve appropriate reproductive function, mammals have precise regulatory mechanisms; one of these is the control of GnRH synthesis and release. In the past, the scarcity of GnRH neurons and their widespread distribution in the brain hindered the study of GnRH gene expression. Until recently, the development of GnRH-expressing cell lines with properties similar to those of in vivo GnRH neurons and also transgenic mice facilitated GnRH gene regulation research. This minireview provides a summary of the molecular mechanisms for the control of GnRH-I and GnRH-II gene expression. These include basal transcription regulation, which involves essential cis-acting elements in the GnRH-I and GnRH-II promoters and interacting transcription factors, and also feedback control by gonadotropins and gonadal sex steroids. Other physiological stimuli, e.g. insulin and melatonin, will also be discussed.

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