An updated view of hypothalamic-vascular-pituitary unit function and plasticity

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Abstract

| The discoveries of novel functional adaptations of the hypothalamus and anterior pituitary gland for physiological regulation have transformed our understanding of their interaction. The activity of a small proportion of hypothalamic neurons can control complex hormonal signalling, which is disconnected from a simple stimulus and the subsequent hormone secretion relationship and is dependent on physiological status. The interrelationship of the terminals of hypothalamic neurons and pituitary cells with the vasculature has an important role in determining the pattern of neurohormone exposure. Cells in the pituitary gland form networks with distinct organizational motifs that are related to the duration and pattern of output, and modifications of these networks occur in different physiological states, can persist after cessation of demand and result in enhanced function. Consequently, the hypothalamus and pituitary can no longer be considered as having a simple stratified relationship: with the vasculature they form a tripartite system, which must function in concert for appropriate hypothalamic regulation of physiological processes, such as reproduction. An improved understanding of the mechanisms underlying these regulatory features has implications for current and future therapies that correct defects in hypothalamic-pituitary axes. In addition, recapitulating proper network organization will be an important challenge for regenerative stem cell treatment.

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