The role of glutamate and nitric oxide in the reproductive neuroendocrine system

Biochem Cell Biol. 2000;78(3):165-79.


The preovulatory surge of gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) is essential for mammalian reproduction. Recent work has implicated the neurotransmitters glutamate and nitric oxide as having a key role in this process. Large concentrations of glutamate are found in several hypothalamic nuclei known to be important for GnRH release and glutamate receptors are also located in these key hypothalamic nuclei. Administration of glutamate agonists stimulate GnRH and LH release, while glutamate receptor antagonists attenuate the steroid-induced and preovulatory LH surge. Glutamate has also been implicated in the critical processes of puberty, hormone pulsatility, and sexual behavior. Glutamate is believed to elicit many of these effects by activating the release of the gaseous neurotransmitter, nitric oxide (NO). NO potently stimulates GnRH by activating a heme containing enzyme, guanylate cyclase, which in turn leads to increased production of cGMP and GnRH release. Recent work has focused on identifying anchoring and (or) clustering proteins that target glutamate receptors to the synapse and couple the glutamate-NO neurotransmission system. The present review will discuss these new findings, as well as the role of glutamate and nitric oxide in important mammalian reproductive events, with a focus on the hypothalamic control of preovulatory GnRH release.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Glutamic Acid / physiology*
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Neurosecretory Systems / metabolism*
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism*
  • Puberty
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / metabolism
  • Reproduction*
  • Sexual Behavior


  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Glutamic Acid