The specific role of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) on brain sexual differentiation remains unclear. To investigate whether gonadotropin and, in turn, testosterone (T) secretion is regulated by GnRH during the critical period for brain differentiation in sheep fetuses, we attempted to selectively suppress pituitary-testicular activation during midgestation with the long-acting GnRH antagonist degarelix. Fetuses received subcutaneous injections of the antagonist or vehicle on day 62 of gestation. After 2 to 3 weeks we examined consequences of the intervention on baseline and GnRH-stimulated plasma luteinizing hormone (LH) and T levels. In addition, we measured the effect of degarelix-treatment on messenger RNA (mRNA) expression for the pituitary gonadotropins and key gonadal steroidogenic enzymes. Baseline and GnRH-stimulated plasma LH levels were significantly suppressed in degarelix-treated male and female fetuses compared to control values. Similarly, T concentrations were suppressed in degarelix-treated males. The percentage of LHβ-immunoreactive cells colocalizing c-fos was significantly reduced by degarelix treatment indicating that pituitary sensitivity was inhibited. Degarelix treatment also led to the significant suppression of mRNA expression coding for the pituitary gonadotropin subunits and for the gonadal enzymes involved in androgen synthesis. These findings demonstrate that pharmacologic inhibition of GnRH early in gestation results in suppression of LH secretion and deficits in the plasma T levels of male lamb fetuses. We conclude that GnRH signaling plays a pivotal role for regulating T exposure during the critical period of sheep gestation when the brain is masculinized. Thus, disturbance to gonadotropin secretion during this phase of gestation could have long-term consequence on adult sexual behaviors and fertility.
- anterior pituitary
ASJC Scopus subject areas