The onset of puberty and maintenance of the female reproductive cycle are events controlled by neurons in the hypothalamus that secrete gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). How signaling to these neurons is controlled remains unclear.
In a study appearing online on July 12 in advance of publication in the August print issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Sergio Ojeda and colleagues from Oregon Health & Science University report that the gene enhanced at puberty 1 (EPA1) acts as a regulator of the neuronal signaling that controls female reproductive function.
The authors found that EPA1 expression was selectively increased at puberty in the hypothalamus in monkeys, rats, and mice. They also showed that the protein product of EPA1 was expressed in neurons involved in the control of reproduction, and that EAP1 activated GnRH. The authors went on to show that inhibition of EPA1 expression in the rat hypothalamus delayed the onset of puberty and disrupted estrous in these animals.
The data suggest that EPA1 is an important regulator acting within the brain and contributes to the control of female reproductive function.
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