Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide Excites GnRH Neurons in Male and Female Mice

Endocrinology. 2016 Sep;157(9):3621-30. doi: 10.1210/en.2016-1399. Epub 2016 Aug 8.


A variety of external and internal factors modulate the activity of GnRH neurons to control fertility in mammals. A direct, vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP)-mediated input to GnRH neurons originating from the suprachiasmatic nucleus is thought to relay circadian information within this network. In the present study, we examined the effects of VIP on GnRH neuron activity in male and female mice at different stages of the estrous cycle. We carried out cell-attached recordings in slices from GnRH-green fluorescent protein mice and calcium imaging in slices from a mouse line expressing the genetically encoded calcium indicator GCaMP3 selectively in GnRH neurons. We show that 50%-80% of GnRH neurons increase their firing rate in response to bath-applied VIP (1nM-1000nM) in both male and female mice and that this is accompanied by a robust increase in intracellular calcium concentrations. This effect is mediated directly at the GnRH neuron likely through activation of high-affinity VIP receptors. Because suprachiasmatic nucleus-derived timing cues trigger the preovulatory surge only on the afternoon of proestrus in female mice, we examined the effects of VIP during the estrous cycle at different times of day. VIP responsiveness in GnRH neurons did not vary significantly in diestrous and proestrous mice before or around the time of the expected preovulatory surge. These results indicate that the majority of GnRH neurons in male and female mice express functional VIP receptors and that the effects of VIP on GnRH neurons do not alter across the estrous cycle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium Signaling
  • Estrous Cycle*
  • Female
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide / physiology*


  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide