Cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript is a potent stimulator of GnRH and kisspeptin cells and may contribute to negative energy balance-induced reproductive inhibition in females

Endocrinology. 2013 Aug;154(8):2821-32. doi: 10.1210/en.2013-1156. Epub 2013 Jun 4.


Cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript (CART) is a hypothalamic neuropeptide implicated in both metabolic and reproductive regulation, raising the possibility that CART plays a role in reproductive inhibition during negative metabolic conditions. The current study characterized CART's regulatory influence on GnRH and kisspeptin (Kiss1) cells and determined the sensitivity of different CART populations to negative energy balance. CART fibers made close appositions to 60% of GnRH cells, with the majority of the fibers (>80%) originating from the arcuate nucleus (ARH) CART/pro-opiomelanocortin population. Electrophysiological recordings in GnRH-green fluorescent protein rats demonstrated that CART postsynaptically depolarizes GnRH cells. CART fibers from the ARH were also observed in close contact with Kiss1 cells in the ARH and anteroventral periventricular nucleus (AVPV). Recordings in Kiss1-GFP mice demonstrated CART also postsynaptically depolarizes ARH Kiss1 cells, suggesting CART may act directly and indirectly, via Kiss1 populations, to stimulate GnRH neurons. CART protein and mRNA levels were analyzed in 2 models of negative energy balance: caloric restriction (CR) and lactation. Both CART mRNA levels and the number of CART-immunoreactive cells were suppressed in the ARH during CR but not during lactation. AVPV CART mRNA was suppressed during CR, but not during lactation when there was a dramatic increase in CART-immunoreactive cells. These data suggest differing regulatory signals of CART between the models. In conclusion, both morphological and electrophysiological methods identify CART as a novel and potent stimulator of Kiss1 and GnRH neurons and suppression of CART expression during negative metabolic conditions could contribute to inhibition of the reproductive axis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Arcuate Nucleus of Hypothalamus / cytology
  • Arcuate Nucleus of Hypothalamus / metabolism
  • Arcuate Nucleus of Hypothalamus / physiology
  • Caloric Restriction
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / genetics
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / metabolism*
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Kisspeptins / metabolism*
  • Membrane Potentials / drug effects
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Reproduction / physiology*
  • Synaptic Potentials / drug effects
  • Tetrodotoxin / pharmacology


  • Kisspeptins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript protein
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Tetrodotoxin