Neurokinin B (NKB) and kisspeptin receptor signaling are essential components of the reproductive axis. A population of neurons resides within the arcuate nucleus of the rat that expresses NKB, kisspeptin, dynorphin, NK3 receptors and estrogen receptor alpha (ERalpha). Here we investigate the projections of these neurons using NKB-immunocytochemistry as a marker. First, the loss of NKB-immunoreactive (ir) somata and fibers was characterized after ablation of the arcuate nucleus by neonatal injections of monosodium glutamate. Second, biotinylated dextran amine was injected into the arcuate nucleus and anterogradely labeled NKB-ir fibers were identified using dual-labeled immunofluorescence. Four major projection pathways are described: (1) local projections within the arcuate nucleus bilaterally, (2) projections to the median eminence including the lateral palisade zone, (3) projections to a periventricular pathway extending rostrally to multiple hypothalamic nuclei, the septal region and BNST and dorsally to the dorsomedial nucleus and (4) Projections to a ventral hypothalamic tract to the lateral hypothalamus and medial forebrain bundle. The diverse projections provide evidence that NKB/kisspeptin/dynorphin neurons could integrate the reproductive axis with multiple homeostatic, behavioral and neuroendocrine processes. Interestingly, anterograde tract-tracing revealed NKB-ir axons originating from arcuate neurons terminating on other NKB-ir somata within the arcuate nucleus. Combined with previous studies, these experiments reveal a bilateral interconnected network of sex-steroid responsive neurons in the arcuate nucleus of the rat that express NKB, kisspeptin, dynorphin, NK3 receptors and ERalpha and project to GnRH terminals in the median eminence. This circuitry provides a mechanism for bilateral synchronization of arcuate NKB/kisspeptin/dynorphin neurons to modulate the pulsatile secretion of GnRH.
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