Puberty is governed by the secretion of gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH), but the roles and identities of upstream neuropeptides that control and time puberty remain poorly understood. Indeed, how various reproductive neural gene systems change before and during puberty, and in relation to one another, is not well-characterized. We detailed the daily pubertal profile (from postnatal day [PND] 15 to PND 30) of neural Kiss1 (encoding kisspeptin), Kiss1r (kisspeptin receptor), Tac2 (neurokinin B), and Rfrp (RFRP-3, mammalian GnIH) gene expression and day-to-day c-fos induction in each of these cell types in developing female mice. Kiss1 expression in the AVPV/PeN increased substantially over the pubertal transition, reaching adult levels around vaginal opening (PND 27.5), a pubertal marker. However, AVPV/PeN Kiss1 neurons were not highly activated, as measured by c-fos co-expression, at any pubertal age. In the ARC, Kiss1 and Tac2 cell numbers showed moderate increases across the pubertal period, and neuronal activation of Tac2/Kiss1 cells was moderately elevated at all pubertal ages. Additionally, Kiss1r expression specifically in GnRH neurons was already maximal by PND 15 and did not change with puberty. Conversely, both Rfrp expression and Rfrp/c-fos co-expression in the DMN decreased markedly in the early pre-pubertal stage. This robust decrease of the inhibitory RFRP-3 population may diminish inhibition of GnRH neurons during early puberty. Collectively, our data identify the precise timing of important developmental changes - and in some cases, lack thereof - in gene expression and neuronal activation of key reproductive neuropeptides during puberty, with several changes occurring well before vaginal opening.
Keywords: GnIH; Kiss1; Kisspeptin; NKB; Puberty; RFRP-3.
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