GnRH Neuron Activity and Pituitary Response in Estradiol-Induced vs Proestrous Luteinizing Hormone Surges in Female Mice

Endocrinology. 2017 Feb 1;158(2):356-366. doi: 10.1210/en.2016-1771.


During the female reproductive cycle, estradiol exerts negative and positive feedback at both the central level to alter gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) release and at the pituitary to affect response to GnRH. Many studies of the neurobiologic mechanisms underlying estradiol feedback have been done on ovariectomized, estradiol-replaced (OVX+E) mice. In this model, GnRH neuron activity depends on estradiol and time of day, increasing in estradiol-treated mice in the late afternoon, coincident with a daily luteinizing hormone (LH) surge. Amplitude of this surge appears lower than in proestrous mice, perhaps because other ovarian factors are not replaced. We hypothesized GnRH neuron activity is greater during the proestrous-preovulatory surge than the estradiol-induced surge. GnRH neuron activity was monitored by extracellular recordings from fluorescently tagged GnRH neurons in brain slices in the late afternoon from diestrous, proestrous, and OVX+E mice. Mean GnRH neuron firing rate was low on diestrus; firing rate was similarly increased in proestrous and OVX+E mice. Bursts of action potentials have been associated with hormone release in neuroendocrine systems. Examination of the patterning of action potentials revealed a shift toward longer burst duration in proestrous mice, whereas intervals between spikes were shorter in OVX+E mice. LH response to an early afternoon injection of GnRH was greater in proestrous than diestrous or OVX+E mice. These observations suggest the lower LH surge amplitude observed in the OVX+E model is likely not attributable to altered mean GnRH neuron activity, but because of reduced pituitary sensitivity, subtle shifts in action potential pattern, and/or excitation-secretion coupling in GnRH neurons.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Estradiol / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / physiology*
  • Luteinizing Hormone / blood*
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Pituitary Gland / physiology*
  • Proestrus / physiology*


  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Estradiol
  • Luteinizing Hormone