Morphological and functional evidence for sexual dimorphism in neurokinin B signalling in the retrochiasmatic area of sheep

J Neuroendocrinol. 2020 Jul;32(7):e12877. doi: 10.1111/jne.12877. Epub 2020 Jun 22.


Neurokinin B (NKB) is critical for fertility in humans and stimulates gonadotrophin-releasing hormone/luteinising hormone (LH) secretion in several species, including sheep. There is increasing evidence that the actions of NKB in the retrochiasmatic area (RCh) contribute to the induction of the preovulatory LH surge in sheep. In the present study, we determined whether there are sex differences in the response to RCh administration of senktide, an agonist to the NKB receptor (neurokinin receptor-3 [NK3R]), and in NKB and NK3R expression in the RCh of sheep. To normalise endogenous hormone concentrations, animals were gonadectomised and given implants to mimic the pattern of ovarian steroids seen in the oestrous cycle. In females, senktide microimplants in the RCh produced an increase in LH concentrations that lasted for at least 8 hours after the start of treatment, whereas a much shorter increment (approximately 2 hours) was seen in males. We next collected tissue from gonadectomised lambs 18 hours after the insertion of oestradiol implants that produce an LH surge in female, but not male, sheep for immunohistochemical analysis of NKB and NK3R expression. As expected, there were more NKB-containing neurones in the arcuate nucleus of females than males. Interestingly, there was a similar sexual dimorphism in NK3R-containing neurones in the RCh, NKB-containing close contacts onto these RCh NK3R neurones, and overall NKB-positive fibres in this region. These data demonstrate that there are both functional and morphological sex differences in NKB-NK3R signalling in the RCh and raise the possibility that this dimorphism contributes to the sex-dependent ability of oestradiol to induce an LH surge in female sheep.

Keywords: GnRH; NK3R; NKB; hypothalamus; reproduction; sexual dimorphism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arcuate Nucleus of Hypothalamus / metabolism
  • Female
  • Hypothalamus, Middle / metabolism*
  • Kisspeptins / metabolism
  • Male
  • Neurokinin B / metabolism*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Receptors, Tachykinin / metabolism
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Sheep
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Kisspeptins
  • Receptors, Tachykinin
  • neurokinin receptor 4
  • Neurokinin B