Peri-pubertal gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist treatment affects sex biased gene expression of amygdala in sheep

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2013 Dec;38(12):3115-27. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2013.09.011. Epub 2013 Sep 19.


The nature of hormonal involvement in pubertal brain development has attracted wide interest. Structural changes within the brain that occur during pubertal development appear mainly in regions closely linked with emotion, motivation and cognitive functions. Using a sheep model, we have previously shown that peri-pubertal pharmacological blockade of gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) receptors, results in exaggerated sex-differences in cognitive executive function and emotional control, as well as sex and hemisphere specific patterns of expression of hippocampal genes associated with synaptic plasticity and endocrine signaling. In this study, we explored effects of this treatment regime on the gene expression profile of the ovine amygdala. The study was conducted with 30 same-sex twin lambs (14 female and 16 male), half of which were treated with the GnRH agonist (GnRHa) goserelin acetate every 4th week, beginning before puberty, until approximately 50 weeks of age. Gene expression profiles of the left and right amygdala were measured using 8×15 K Agilent ovine microarrays. Differential expression of selected genes was confirmed by qRT-PCR (Quantitative real time PCR). Networking analyses and Gene Ontology (GO) Term analyses were performed with Ingenuity Pathway Analysis (IPA), version 7.5 and DAVID (Database for Annotation, Visualization and integrated Discovery) version 6.7 software packages, respectively. GnRHa treatment was associated with significant sex- and hemisphere-specific differential patterns of gene expression. GnRHa treatment was associated with differential expression of 432 (|logFC|>0.3, adj. p value <0.05) and 46 (p value <0.0.5) genes in the left and right amygdala, respectively, of female animals, relative to the reference sample which consisted of all a pooled sample from control and treated animals of both sexes. No genes were found to be differentially expressed as a result of GnRHa treatment in the male animals. The results indicated that GnRH may, directly and/or indirectly, be involved in the regulation of sex- and hemisphere-specific differential expression of genes in the amygdala. This finding should be considered when long-term peri-pubertal GnRHa treatment is used in children.

Keywords: Amygdala; Gene expression; GnRH agonist; Gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH); Microarray; Puberty; Sex-differences; Sheep.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / drug effects
  • Amygdala / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Gene Expression / drug effects*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / agonists*
  • Goserelin / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Microarray Analysis
  • RNA / biosynthesis
  • RNA / genetics
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sheep


  • Goserelin
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • RNA