Whole-cell recordings from preoptic/hypothalamic slices reveal burst firing in gonadotropin-releasing hormone neurons identified with green fluorescent protein in transgenic mice

Endocrinology. 2000 Oct;141(10):3731-6. doi: 10.1210/endo.141.10.7690.


Central control of reproduction is governed by a neuronal pulse generator that underlies the activity of hypothalamic neuroendocrine cells that secrete GnRH. Bursts and prolonged episodes of repetitive action potentials have been associated with hormone secretion in this and other neuroendocrine systems. To begin to investigate the cellular mechanisms responsible for the GnRH pulse generator, we used transgenic mice in which green fluorescent protein was genetically targeted to GnRH neurons. Whole-cell recordings were obtained from 21 GnRH neurons, visually identified in 200-microm preoptic/hypothalamic slices, to determine whether they exhibit high frequency bursts of action potentials and are electrically coupled at or near the somata. All GnRH neurons fired spontaneous action potentials, and in 15 of 21 GnRH neurons, the action potentials occurred in single bursts or episodes of repetitive bursts of high frequency spikes (9.77 +/- 0.87 Hz) lasting 3-120 sec. Extended periods of quiescence of up to 30 min preceded and followed these periods of repetitive firing. Examination of 92 GnRH neurons (including 32 neurons that were located near another green fluorescent protein-positive neuron) revealed evidence for coupling in only 1 pair of GnRH neurons. The evidence for minimal coupling between these neuroendocrine cells suggests that direct soma to soma transfer of information, through either cytoplasmic bridges or gap junctions, has a minor role in synchronization of GnRH neurons. The pattern of electrical activity observed in single GnRH neurons within slices is temporally consistent with observations of GnRH release and multiple unit electrophysiological correlates of LH release. Episodes of burst firing of individual GnRH neurons may represent a component of the GnRH pulse generator.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Electrophysiology
  • Female
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / metabolism*
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Hypothalamus / physiology*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Indicators and Reagents
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic / genetics
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Preoptic Area / physiology*


  • Indicators and Reagents
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone