Cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript (CART) is a hypothalamic neuropeptide implicated in both metabolic and reproductive regulation, raising the possibility that CART plays a role in reproductive inhibition during negative metabolic conditions. The current study characterized CART's regulatory influence on GnRH and kisspeptin (Kiss1) cells and determined the sensitivity of differentCARTpopulations to negative energy balance.CARTfibersmadeclose appositions to60% of GnRH cells, with the majority of the fibers (+80%) originating from the arcuate nucleus (ARH) CART/pro-opiomelanocortin population. Electrophysiological recordings in GnRH-green fluorescent protein rats demonstrated that CART postsynaptically depolarizes GnRH cells. CART fibers from the ARH were also observed in close contact with Kiss1 cells in the ARH and anteroventral periventricular nucleus (AVPV). Recordings in Kiss1-GFP mice demonstrated CART also postsynaptically depolarizes ARH Kiss1 cells, suggesting CART may act directly and indirectly, via Kiss1 populations, to stimulate GnRH neurons. CART protein and mRNA levels were analyzed in 2 models of negative energy balance: caloric restriction (CR) and lactation. Both CART mRNA levels and the number of CART-immunoreactive cells were suppressed in the ARH during CR but not during lactation. AVPV CART mRNA was suppressed during CR, but not during lactation when there was a dramatic increase in CART-immunoreactive cells. These data suggest differing regulatory signals ofCARTbetween the models. In conclusion, both morphological and electrophysiological methods identify CART as a novel and potent stimulator of Kiss1 andGnRHneurons and suppression of CART expression during negative metabolic conditions could contribute to inhibition of the reproductive axis.
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