To attain sexual competence, all mammalian species go through puberty, a maturational period during which body growth and development of secondary sexual characteristics occur. Puberty begins when the diurnal pulsatile gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) release from the hypothalamus increases for a prolonged period of time, driving the adenohypophysis to increase the pulsatile release of luteinizing hormone with diurnal periodicity. Increased pubertal GnRH secretion does not appear to be driven by inherent changes in GnRH neuronal activity; rather, it is induced by changes in transsynaptic and glial inputs to GnRH neurons. We now know that these changes involve a reduction in inhibitory transsynaptic inputs combined with increased transsynaptic and glial excitatory inputs to the GnRH neuronal network. Although the pubertal process is known to have a strong genetic component, during the last several years, epigenetics has been implicated as a significant regulatory mechanism through which GnRH release is first repressed before puberty and is involved later on during the increase in GnRH secretion that brings about the pubertal process. According to this concept, a central target of epigenetic regulation is the transcriptional machinery of neurons implicated in stimulating GnRH release. Here, we will briefly review the hormonal changes associated with the advent of female puberty and the role that excitatory transsynaptic inputs have in this process. In addition, we will examine the 3 major groups of epigenetic modifying enzymes expressed in the neuroendocrine hypothalamus, which was recently shown to be involved in pubertal development and progression.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience