Reproductive function is controlled by GnRH cells and their steroid-sensitive regulatory inputs. The proper maturation of this system is critical to sexual development and maintenance of adult function. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying these developmental changes, and the potential roles of gonadal hormones in sculpting these processes, have not been fully explored. We performed a developmental profile from postnatal day (P) 1 through P60of a network of five genes in the preoptic area (POA) that are critical to reproduction in male Sprague Dawley rats. GnRH, estrogen receptors-α, and β, androgen receptor (AR), and progesterone receptor (PR) mRNAs in the POA were assayed, and serum hormones were measured, in developing male rats. We also used a Taqman low-density array to identify candidate genes that may be important in development. Of the five targeted genes, only AR and PR changed robustly (7- and 3- to 4-fold increases, respectively) during development. All of the gonadal serum hormones changed markedly and with very different patterns from their receptor mRNAs: testosterone decreased from P1 to P30 and then increased to P60; progesterone peaked on P30; and estradiol decreased from P1 to P30. Using the Taqman low-density array, we identified several genes that changed dramatically in the POA with development, particularly G protein-coupled receptor 30, IGF-I, vitamin D receptor, estrogen- related receptor-α, and thyroid receptor-α. Our data demonstrate developmental stage-specific changes in neuroendocrine genes, particularly AR and PR. Moreover, the relationships between hormones and their corresponding receptors undergo dynamic changes across development in male rats.
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