The hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis is controlled by gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) released by the hypothalamus. Disruption of this system leads to impaired reproductive maturation and function, a condition known as hypogonadotropic hypogonadism (HH). Most studies to date have focused on genetic causes of HH that impact neuronal development and function. However, variants may also impact the functioning of non-neuronal cells known as glia. Glial cells make up 50% of brain cells of humans, primates, and rodents. They include radial glial cells, microglia, astrocytes, tanycytes, oligodendrocytes, and oligodendrocyte precursor cells. Many of these cells influence the hypothalamic neuroendocrine system controlling fertility. Indeed, glia regulate GnRH neuronal activity and secretion, acting both at their cell bodies and their nerve endings. Recent work has also made clear that these interactions are an essential aspect of how the HPG axis integrates endocrine, metabolic, and environmental signals to control fertility. Recognition of the clinical importance of interactions between glia and the GnRH network may pave the way for the development of new treatment strategies for dysfunctions of puberty and adult fertility.
Keywords: Astrocytes; Development; Fertility; Glia; Glial cells; GnRH; Hypogonadotropic hypogonadism; Insulin; Kallmann syndrome; Leptin; Metabolic signals; Microglia; Neuroendocrine; OPCs; Oligodendrocytes; Puberty; Radial glia; Reproduction; Sirt1; Tanycytes.
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