Defective gonadotropin-releasing hormone neuron migration in mice lacking SEMA3A signalling through NRP1 and NRP2: implications for the aetiology of hypogonadotropic hypogonadism

Hum Mol Genet. 2011 Jan 15;20(2):336-44. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddq468. Epub 2010 Nov 8.


Kallmann syndrome (KS) is a genetic disease characterized by hypogonadotropic hypogonadism and impaired sense of smell. The genetic causes underlying this syndrome are still largely unknown, but are thought to be due to a developmental defect in the migration of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons. Understanding the causes of the disease is hampered by lack of appropriate mouse models. GnRH neurons are hypothalamic cells that centrally control reproduction in mammals by secreting the GnRH decapeptide into the portal blood vessels of the pituitary to stimulate the production of gonadotropins. During development, these cells are born in the nasal placode outside the brain and migrate in association with olfactory/vomeronasal axons to reach the forebrain and position themselves in the hypothalamus. By combining the analysis of genetically altered mice with in vitro models, we demonstrate here that a secreted guidance cue of the class 3 semaphorin family, SEMA3A, is essential for the development of the GnRH neuron system: loss of SEMA3A signalling alters the targeting of vomeronasal nerves and the migration of GnRH neurons into the brain, resulting in reduced gonadal size. We found that SEMA3A signals redundantly through both its classical receptors neuropilin (NRP) 1 and, unconventionally, NRP2, while the usual NRP2 ligand SEMA3F is dispensable for this process. Strikingly, mice lacking SEMA3A or semaphorin signalling through both NRP1 and NRP2 recapitulate the anatomical features of a single case of KS analysed so far, and may therefore be used as genetic models to elucidate the pathogenesis of KS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / metabolism
  • Cell Movement
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hypogonadism* / genetics
  • Hypogonadism* / physiopathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neuropilin-1* / genetics
  • Neuropilin-1* / metabolism
  • Neuropilin-2* / genetics
  • Neuropilin-2* / metabolism
  • Prosencephalon / cytology
  • Semaphorin-3A / genetics
  • Semaphorin-3A / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Vomeronasal Organ / cytology
  • Vomeronasal Organ / metabolism


  • Neuropilin-2
  • Semaphorin-3A
  • Neuropilin-1
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone