Three gonadotropin-releasing hormone genes in one organism suggest novel roles for an ancient peptide

Stephanie A. White, Thomas L. Kasten, Chris T. Bond, John P. Adelman, Russell D. Fernald

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186 Scopus citations


Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) is known and named for its essential role in vertebrate reproduction. Release of this decapeptide from neurons in the hypothalamus controls pituitary gonadotropin levels which, in turn, regulate gonadal state. The importance of GnRH is underscored by its widespread expression and conservation across vertebrate taxa: five amino acids are invariant in all nine known forms, whereas two others show only conservative changes. In most eutherian mammals, only one form, expressed in the hypothalamus, is thought to exist, although in a recent report, antibody staining in developing primates suggests an additional form. In contrast, multiple GnRH forms and expression loci have been reported in many nonmammalian vertebrates. However, evidence based on immunological discrimination does not always agree with analysis of gene expression, since GnRH forms encoded by different genes may not be reliably distinguished by antibodies. Here we report the expression of three distinct GnRH genes in a teleost fish brain, including the sequence encoding a novel GnRH preprohormone. Using in situ hybridization, we show that this form is found only in neurons that project to the pituitary and exhibit changes in soma size depending on social and reproductive state. The other two GnRH genes are expressed in other, distinct cell populations. All three genes share the motif of encoding a polypeptide consisting of GnRH and a GnRH-associated peptide. Whereas the GnRH moiety is highly conserved, the GnRH-associated peptides are not, reflecting differential selective pressure on different parts of the gene. GnRH forms expressed in nonhypothalamic regions may serve to coordinate reproductive activities of the animal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8363-8367
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number18
StatePublished - Aug 29 1995
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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