In the human infundibular (arcuate) nucleus, a subpopulation of neurons coexpress kisspeptin and neurokinin B (NKB), 2 peptides required for normal reproductive function. A homologous group of neurons exists in the arcuate nucleus of rodents, termed KNDy neurons based on the coexpression of kisspeptin, NKB, and dynorphin. To study their function,werecently developed a method to selectively ablate KNDy neurons using NK3-SAP, a neurokinin 3 receptor agonist conjugated to saporin (SAP). Here, we ablated KNDy neurons in female rats to determine whether these neurons are required for estrous cyclicity and the steroid induced LH surge. NK3-SAP or Blank-SAP (control) was microinjected into the arcuate nucleus using stereotaxic surgery. After monitoring vaginal smears for 3-4 weeks, rats were ovariectomized and given 17-estradiol and progesterone in a regimen that induced an afternoon LH surge. Rats were killed at the time of peak LH levels, and brains were harvested for NKB and dual labeled GnRH/Fos immunohistochemistry. In ovary-intact rats, ablation of KNDy neurons resulted in hypogonadotropic hypogonadism, characterized by low levels of serum LH, constant diestrus, ovarian atrophy with increased follicular atresia, and uterine atrophy. Surprisingly, the 17-estradiol and progesterone-induced LH surge was 3 times higher in KNDy-ablated rats. Despite the marked increase in the magnitude of the LH surge, the number of GnRH or anterior ventral periventricular nucleus neurons expressing Fos was not significantly different between groups. Our studies show that KNDy neurons are essential for tonic levels of serum LH and estrous cyclicity and may play a role in limiting the magnitude of the LH surge.
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