Hypothalamic dysfunction

Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2001 Oct 25;183(1-2):29-32. doi: 10.1016/s0303-7207(01)00611-6.


A pulsatile GnRH stimulus is required to maintain gonadotropin synthesis and secretion. The frequency and amplitude of GnRH pulses determine gonadotropin subunit gene expression and secretion of pituitary LH and FSH. Rapid frequency (more than 1 pulse per h) GnRH pulses favor LH while slower frequencies favor FSH secretion. During ovulatory cycles, an increase in GnRH frequency during the follicular phase favors LH synthesis prior to the LH surge, while following ovulation, luteal steroids slow GnRH pulses to favor FSH synthesis. Thus, a changing frequency of GnRH stimulation of the gonadotrope is one of the mechanisms involved in differential gonadotropin secretion during ovulatory cycles. In hypothalamic amenorrhea a majority of women exhibit a persistent slow frequency of LH (GnRH) pulses, which reflects excess hypothalamic opioid tone and can be temporarily reversed by opioid antagonists. At the other end of the spectrum, in polycystic ovarian syndrome, LH (GnRH) pulses are persistently rapid and favor LH synthesis, hyperandrogenism and impaired follicular maturation. Administration of progesterone can slow GnRH pulse secretion, favor FSH secretion and induce follicular maturation. Thus, the ability to change the pattern of GnRH secretion is an important factor in the maintenance of cyclic ovulation, and loss of this function leads to anovulation and amenorrhea.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amenorrhea / physiopathology
  • Animals
  • Estrous Cycle / physiology
  • Female
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone / metabolism*
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / physiopathology*
  • Kallmann Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Luteinizing Hormone / metabolism*
  • Menstrual Cycle / physiology
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Prolactin / blood
  • Time Factors


  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Prolactin
  • Luteinizing Hormone
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone