Gonadotropin-releasing hormone: GnRH receptor signaling in extrapituitary tissues

FEBS J. 2008 Nov;275(22):5479-95. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-4658.2008.06677.x.


Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) has historically been known as a pituitary hormone; however, in the past few years, interest has been raised in locally produced, extrapituitary GnRH. GnRH receptor (GnRHR) was found to be expressed in normal human reproductive tissues (e.g. breast, endometrium, ovary, and prostate) and tumors derived from these tissues. Numerous studies have provided evidence for a role of GnRH in cell proliferation. More recently, we and others have reported a novel role for GnRH in other aspects of tumor progression, such as metastasis and angiogenesis. The multiple actions of GnRH could be linked to the divergence of signaling pathways that are activated by GnRHR. Recent observations also demonstrate cross-talk between GnRHR and growth factor receptors. Intriguingly, the classical G(alphaq)-11-phospholipase C signal transduction pathway, known to function in pituitary gonadotropes, is not involved in GnRH actions at nonpituitary targets. Herein, we review the key findings on the role of GnRH in the control of tumor growth, progression, and dissemination. The emerging role of GnRHR in actin cytoskeleton remodeling (small Rho GTPases), expression and/or activity of adhesion molecules (integrins), proteolytic enzymes (matrix metalloproteinases) and angiogenic factors is explored. The signal transduction mechanisms of GnRHR in mediating these activities is described. Finally, we discuss how a common GnRHR may mediate different, even opposite, responses to GnRH in the same tissue/cell type and whether an additional receptor(s) for GnRH exists.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Receptors, LHRH / physiology
  • Signal Transduction


  • Receptors, LHRH
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone