γ-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) inhibits the embryonic migration of GnRH neurons and regulates hypothalamic GnRH release. A subset of GnRH neurons expresses GABA along their migratory route in the nasal compartment before entering the brain, suggesting that GABA produced by GnRH neurons may help regulate the migratory process. To examine this hypothesis and the possibility that persistence of GABA production by GnRH neurons may affect subsequent reproductive function, we generated transgenic mice in which the expression of glutamic acid decarboxylase-67 (GAD-67), a key enzyme in GABA synthesis, is targeted to GnRH neurons under the control of the GnRH gene promoter. On embryonic d 15, when GnRH neurons are still migrating, the transgenic animals had more GnRH neurons in aberrant locations in the cerebral cortex and fewer neurons reaching the hypothalamic-preoptic region, whereas migration into the brain was not affected. Hypothalamic GnRH content in mutant mice was low during the first week of postnatal life, increasing to normal values during infantile development (second week after birth) in the presence of increased pulsatile GnRH release. Consistent with these changes, serum LH and FSH levels were also elevated. Gonadotropin release returned to normal values by the time steroid negative feedback became established (fourth week of life). Ovariectomy at this time demonstrated an enhanced gonadotropin response in transgenic animals. Although the onset of puberty, as assessed by the age at vaginal opening and first ovulation, was not affected in the mutant mice, estrous cyclicity and adult reproductive capacity were disrupted. Mutant mice had reduced litter sizes, increased time intervals between deliveries of litters, and a shorter reproductive life span. Thus, GABA produced within GnRH neurons does not delay GnRH neuronal migration, but instead serves as a developmental cue that increases the positional diversity of these neurons within the basal forebrain. In addition, the results suggest that the timely termination of GABA production within the GnRH neuronal network is a prerequisite for normal reproductive function. The possibility arises that similar abnormalities in GABA homeostasis may contribute to syndromes of hypothalamic amenorrhea/oligomenorrhea in humans.
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