GnRH neurons recruit astrocytes in infancy to facilitate network integration and sexual maturation

Nat Neurosci. 2021 Dec;24(12):1660-1672. doi: 10.1038/s41593-021-00960-z. Epub 2021 Nov 18.


Neurons that produce gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which control fertility, complete their nose-to-brain migration by birth. However, their function depends on integration within a complex neuroglial network during postnatal development. Here, we show that rodent GnRH neurons use a prostaglandin D2 receptor DP1 signaling mechanism during infancy to recruit newborn astrocytes that 'escort' them into adulthood, and that the impairment of postnatal hypothalamic gliogenesis markedly alters sexual maturation by preventing this recruitment, a process mimicked by the endocrine disruptor bisphenol A. Inhibition of DP1 signaling in the infantile preoptic region, where GnRH cell bodies reside, disrupts the correct wiring and firing of GnRH neurons, alters minipuberty or the first activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis during infancy, and delays the timely acquisition of reproductive capacity. These findings uncover a previously unknown neuron-to-neural-progenitor communication pathway and demonstrate that postnatal astrogenesis is a basic component of a complex set of mechanisms used by the neuroendocrine brain to control sexual maturation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Astrocytes / metabolism
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone* / metabolism
  • Hypothalamus / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Sexual Maturation* / physiology


  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone