Contribution to Special Issue on Fast effects of steroids.
The concept that the positive feedback effect of ovarian estradiol (E2) results in GnRH and gonadotropin surges is a well-established principle. However, a series of studies investigating the rapid action of E2 in female rhesus monkeys has led to a new concept that neuroestradiol, synthesized and released in the hypothalamus, also contributes to regulation of the preovulatory GnRH surge. This unexpected finding started from our surprising observation that E2 induces rapid stimulatory action in GnRH neurons in vitro. Subsequently, we confirmed that a similar rapid stimulatory action of E2 occurs in vivo. Unlike subcutaneous injection of E2 benzoate (EB), a brief (10–20 min), direct infusion of EB into the median eminence in ovariectomized (OVX) female monkeys rapidly stimulates release of GnRH and E2 in a pulsatile manner, and the EB-induced GnRH and E2 release is blocked by simultaneous infusion of the aromatase inhibitor, letrozole. This suggests that stimulated release of E2 is of hypothalamic origin. To further determine the role of neuroestradiol we examined the effects of letrozole on EB-induced GnRH and LH surges in OVX females. Results indicate that letrozole treatment greatly attenuated the EB-induced GnRH and LH surges. Collectively, neuroestradiol released from the hypothalamus appears to be necessary for the positive feedback effect of E2 on the GnRH/LH surge.