Although the hypothalamic secretion of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) is the defining hormonal event of puberty, the physiologic mechanisms that drive secretion of GnRH at the time of sexual maturation have been difficult to identify. After puberty is initiated, the factors that modulate the frequency and amplitude of GnRH secretion in rapidly changing sex-steroid environments (i.e. the female menstrual cycle) also remain unknown. The discovery that, in both humans and mouse models, loss-of-function mutations in the gene that encodes G-protein-coupled receptor 54 result in phenotypes of hypogonadotropic hypogonadism with an absence of pubertal development has unearthed a novel pathway regulating GnRH secretion. Ligands for G-protein-coupled receptor 54 (KiSS-1R), including metastin (derived from the parent compound, kisspeptin-1) and metastin's C-terminal peptide fragments, have been shown to be powerful stimulants for GnRH release in vivo via their stimulation of G-protein-coupled receptor 54. This article reviews the discovery of the GPR54 gene, places it into the appropriate biological context, and explores the data from in vitro and in vivo studies that point to this ligand-receptor system as a major driver of GnRH secretion.