Long-Term Recordings of Arcuate Nucleus Kisspeptin Neurons Reveal Patterned Activity That Is Modulated by Gonadal Steroids in Male Mice
Pulsatile release of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) is key to fertility. Pulse frequency is modulated by gonadal steroids and likely arises subsequent to coordination of GnRH neuron firing activity. The source of rhythm generation and the site of steroid feedback remain critical unanswered questions. Arcuate neurons that synthesize kisspeptin, neurokinin B, and dynorphin (KNDy) may be involved in both of these processes. We tested the hypotheses that action potential firing in KNDy neurons is episodic and that gonadal steroids regulate this pattern. Targeted extracellular recordings were made of green fluorescent protein-identified KNDy neurons in brain slices from adult male mice that were intact, castrated, or castrated and treated with estradiol or dihydrotestosterone (DHT). KNDy neurons exhibited marked peaks and nadirs in action potential firing activity during recordings lasting 1 to 3.5 hours. Peaks, identified by Cluster analysis, occurred more frequently in castrated than intact mice, and either estradiol or DHT in vivo or blocking neurokinin type 3 receptor in vitro restored peak frequency to intact levels. The frequency of peaks in firing rate and estradiol regulation of this frequency is similar to that observed for GnRH neurons, whereas DHT suppressed firing in KNDy but not GnRH neurons. We further examined the patterning of action potentials to identify bursts that may be associated with increased neuromodulator release. Burst frequency and duration are increased in castrated compared with intact and steroid-treated mice. The observation that KNDy neurons fire in an episodic manner that is regulated by steroid feedback is consistent with a role for these neurons in GnRH pulse generation and regulation.