Distribution and Seasonal Variation in Hypothalamic RF-amide Peptides in a Semi-Desert Rodent, the Jerboa

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The jerboa is a semi-desert rodent, in which reproductive activity depends on the seasons, being sexually active in the spring–summer. The present study aimed to determine whether the expression of two RF-amide peptides recently described to regulate gonadotrophin-releasing hormone neurone activity, kisspeptin (Kp) and RF-amide-related peptide (RFRP)-3, displays seasonal variation in jerboa. Kp and/or RFRP-3 immunoreactivity was investigated in the hypothalamus of jerboas captured in the field of the Middle Atlas mountain (Morocco), either in the spring or autumn. As in other rodents, the Kp-immunoreactive (-IR) neurones were found in the anteroventro-periventricular and arcuate nuclei. RFRP-3 neurones were noted within the dorso/ventromedial hypothalamus. A marked sexual dimorphism in the expression of Kp (but not RFRP-3) was observed. The number of Kp-IR neurones was nine-fold higher, and the density of Kp-IR fibres and terminal-like elements in the median eminence was two-fold higher in females than in males. Furthermore, a significant seasonal variation in peptide expression was obtained with an increase in both Kp- and RFRP-3-IR cell bodies in sexually active male jerboas captured in the spring compared to sexually inactive autumn animals. In the arcuate nucleus, the level of Kp-IR cells and fibres was significant higher during the sexually active period in the spring than during the autumnal sexual quiescence. Similarly, the number of RFRP-3-IR neurones in the ventro/dorsomedial hypothalamus was approximately three-fold higher in sexually active jerboa captured in the spring compared to sexually inactive autumn animals. Altogether, the present study reports the distribution of Kp and RFRP-3 neurones in the hypothalamus of a desert species and reveals a seasonal difference in their expression that correlates with sexual activity. These findings suggest that these two RF-amide peptides may act in concert to synchronise the gonadotrophic activity of jerboas with the seasons.

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