Gonadotrophin-Inhibitory Hormone Receptor Expression in the Chicken Pituitary Gland: Potential Influence of Sexual Maturation and Ovarian Steroids

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Gonadotrophin-inhibitory hormone (GnIH), a hypothalamic RFamide, has been found to inhibit gonadotrophin secretion from the anterior pituitary gland originally in birds and, subsequently, in mammalian species. The gene encoding a transmembrane receptor for GnIH (GnIHR) was recently identified in the brain, pituitary gland and gonads of song bird, chicken and Japanese quail. The objectives of the present study are to characterise the expression of GnIHR mRNA and protein in the chicken pituitary gland, and to determine whether sexual maturation and gonadal steroids influence pituitary GnIHR mRNA abundance. GnIHR mRNA quantity was found to be significantly higher in diencephalon compared to either anterior pituitary gland or ovaries. GnIHR mRNA quantity was significantly higher in the pituitaries of sexually immature chickens relative to sexually mature chickens. Oestradiol or a combination of oestradiol and progesterone treatment caused a significant decrease in pituitary GnIHR mRNA quantity relative to vehicle controls. GnIHR-immunoreactive (ir) cells were identified in the chicken pituitary gland cephalic and caudal lobes. Furthermore, GnIHR-ir cells were found to be colocalised with luteinising hormone (LH)β mRNA-, or follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)β mRNA-containing cells. GnIH treatment significantly decreased LH release from anterior pituitary gland slices collected from sexually immature, but not from sexually mature chickens. Taken together, GnIHR gene expression is possibly down regulated in response to a surge in circulating oestradiol and progesterone levels as the chicken undergoes sexual maturation to allow gonadotrophin secretion. Furthermore, GnIHR protein expressed in FSHβ or LHβ mRNA-containing cells is likely to mediate the inhibitory effect of GnIH on LH and FSH secretion.

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