Androgens increase gonadotropin-releasing hormone neuron firing activity in females and interfere with progesterone negative feedback

Endocrinology. 2006 Mar;147(3):1474-9. doi: 10.1210/en.2005-1029. Epub 2005 Dec 8.


GnRH neurons are the central regulators of fertility, and their activity is modulated by steroid feedback. In women with hyperandrogenemic infertility and in animal models of these disorders, elevated androgen levels interfere with progesterone (P) negative feedback. Our previous work showed that steroids altered the frequency and amplitude of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) transmission to GnRH neurons. Specifically, P inhibited GABA transmission, which can excite GnRH neurons, whereas dihydrotestosterone (DHT) increased GABA transmission. In this study the GnRH neuron firing rate was examined in the same animal models. Adult (>2 months) female mice were ovariectomized and treated for 8-12 d with implants containing estradiol (E), E and P, E and DHT, or E, P, and DHT. Targeted extracellular recordings were used to examine the long-term firing activity of green fluorescent protein-identified GnRH neurons in brain slices from these mice. In comparing E alone to E plus P animals, P increased the percentage of time that GnRH neurons were quiescent and reduced the area under the curve of the firing rate and the instantaneous firing frequency, suggesting that P provides additional negative feedback over E alone. The addition of DHT markedly increased GnRH neuron activity in both the presence and absence of P. DHT also altered the firing pattern of GnRH neurons, such that peaks in the firing rate detected by the Cluster8 algorithm were approximately doubled in frequency and amplitude. These data support and extend our previous findings and are consistent with the hypothesis that the changes in GABAergic transmission observed in these animal models impact upon the activity of GnRH neurons, and central androgen action probably stimulates GnRH release.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Androgens / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Dihydrotestosterone / pharmacology
  • Electrophysiology
  • Estradiol / metabolism
  • Feedback, Physiological*
  • Female
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / metabolism*
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Models, Biological
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Progesterone / metabolism
  • Time Factors
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism


  • Androgens
  • Dihydrotestosterone
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Progesterone
  • Estradiol
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid