Gonadotropin-inhibitory hormone (GnIH) is a hypothalamic dodecapeptide (SIKPSAYLPLRF-NH2) that directly inhibits gonadotropin synthesis and release from quail pituitary. The action of GnIH is mediated by a novel G-protein coupled receptor. This gonadotropin-inhibitory system may be widespread in vertebrates, at least birds and mammals. In these higher vertebrates, histological evidence suggests contact of GnIH immunoreactive axon terminals with GnRH neurons, thus indicating direct regulation of GnRH neuronal activity by GnIH. In this study we investigated the interaction of GnIH and GnRH-I and -II neurons in European starling (Sturnus vulgaris) brain. Cloned starling GnIH precursor cDNA encoded three peptides that possess characteristic LPXRF-amide (X = L or Q) motifs at the C termini. Starling GnIH was further identified as SIKPFANLPLRF-NH2 by mass spectrometry combined with immunoaffinity purification. GnIH neurons, identified by in situ hybridization and immunocytochemistry (ICC), were clustered in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus. GnIH immunoreactive fiber terminals were present in the external layer of the median eminence in addition to the preoptic area and midbrain, where GnRH-I and GnRH-II neuronal cell bodies exist, respectively. GnIH axon terminals on GnRH-I and -II neurons were shown by GnIH and GnRH double-label ICC. Furthermore, the expression of starling GnIH receptor mRNA was identified in both GnRH-I and GnRH-II neurons by in situ hybridization combined with GnRH ICC. The cellular localization of GnIH receptor has not previously been identified in any vertebrate brain. Thus, GnIH may regulate reproduction of vertebrates by directly modulating GnRH-I and GnRH-II neuronal activity, in addition to influencing the pituitary gland.
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