Prenatal androgenization of female mice programs an increase in firing activity of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons that is reversed by metformin treatment in adulthood

Endocrinology. 2011 Feb;152(2):618-28. doi: 10.1210/en.2010-0823. Epub 2010 Dec 15.


Prenatal androgenization (PNA) of female mice with dihydrotestosterone programs reproductive dysfunction in adulthood, characterized by elevated luteinizing hormone levels, irregular estrous cycles, and central abnormalities. Here, we evaluated activity of GnRH neurons from PNA mice and the effects of in vivo treatment with metformin, an activator of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) that is commonly used to treat the fertility disorder polycystic ovary syndrome. Estrous cycles were monitored in PNA and control mice before and after metformin administration. Before metformin, cycles were longer in PNA mice and percent time in estrus lower; metformin normalized cycles in PNA mice. Extracellular recordings were used to monitor GnRH neuron firing activity in brain slices from diestrous mice. Firing rate was higher and quiescence lower in GnRH neurons from PNA mice, demonstrating increased GnRH neuron activity. Metformin treatment of PNA mice restored firing activity and LH to control levels. To assess whether AMPK activation contributed to the metformin-induced reduction in GnRH neuron activity, the AMPK antagonist compound C was acutely applied to cells. Compound C stimulated cells from metformin-treated, but not untreated, mice, suggesting that AMPK was activated in GnRH neurons, or afferent neurons, in the former group. GnRH neurons from metformin-treated mice also showed a reduced inhibitory response to low glucose. These studies indicate that PNA causes enhanced firing activity of GnRH neurons and elevated LH that are reversible by metformin, raising the possibility that central AMPK activation by metformin may play a role in its restoration of reproductive cycles in polycystic ovary syndrome.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dihydrotestosterone / pharmacology*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Estrous Cycle / drug effects
  • Female
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / metabolism*
  • Metformin / pharmacology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects


  • Dihydrotestosterone
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Metformin