Neurosteroids, steroids synthesized de novo in the brain, have been implicated in functions ranging from stress, depression, anxiety, to cognition. One neurosteroid is progesterone, a classic sex hormone involved in the regulation of reproduction. We have previously shown that peripheral estradiol (E2) increases hypothalamic neuroprogesterone (neuroP) synthesis, which initiates the luteinizing hormone (LH) surge. The LH surge triggers ovulation and the luteinization of the ruptured follicle - critical events in reproduction. Within the hypothalamus, astrocytes respond to E2 stimulation by increasing neuroP synthesis. Preliminary data point to E2-signaling that requires an interaction between membrane-associated estrogen receptor-1 (mER1) and a group 1 metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR1a). The resulting rise in free cytoplasmic calcium is sufficient to stimulate neuroP synthesis. Since GnRH neurons that control the LH surge do not have steroid receptors, other neurons are required to transmit steroid information to them. Kisspeptin neurons have been suggested as these intervening neurons: they project to GnRH neurons, potently excite them, and express ER1 and progesterone receptor (PR). Based on these results, we propose to test the hypothesis that estrogen positive feedback requires E2-induced neuroP synthesis involving a mER1 and mGluR1a interaction, and the activation of kisspeptin neurons. Three experiments are proposed to study E2 signaling in vitro and in vivo. Three subhypotheses will be tested: 1) E2-induced neuroP synthesis requires activation of the mGluR;2) E2 stimulates the synthesis of neuroP by activating StAR;and 3) estrogen positive feedback requires PR-mediated activation of periventricular kisspeptin neurons. These studies will use astrocyte cultures to work out cell signaling pathways, and whole animal experiments to verify the in vitro results and tie them to regulation of the LH surge. The proposed studies will test a novel mechanism regulating the transduction of E2 information into neural signals that stimulate the release of GnRH resulting in the LH surge.

Public Health Relevance

The proposed studies at the basic level seek to provide an integrated model of estrogen positive feedback to understand the mechanisms that control hypothalamic regulation of the luteinizing hormone (LH) surge and ovulation which are important for both regulating fertility as well as treating infertility. Approximately 12% of women (7.3 million) in the United States aged 15-44 had fertility difficulties (National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) because of ovulatory dysfunction that is controlled by the LH surge. This type of infertility exhibits excess estrogen production without ovulation that can lead to polycystic ovary syndrome, irregular vaginal bleeding, metabolic abnormalities as well as endometrial polyps, hyperplasia, and even cancer.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
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Neuroendocrinology, Neuroimmunology, and Behavior Study Section (NNB)
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Lamar, Charisee A
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University of California Los Angeles
Schools of Medicine
Los Angeles
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Mittelman-Smith, Melinda A; Wong, Angela M; Micevych, Paul E (2018) Estrogen and Progesterone Integration in an in vitro Model of RP3V Kisspeptin Neurons. Neuroendocrinology 106:101-115
Micevych, Paul E; Mermelstein, Paul G; Sinchak, Kevin (2017) Estradiol Membrane-Initiated Signaling in the Brain Mediates Reproduction. Trends Neurosci 40:654-666
Mittelman-Smith, Melinda A; Rudolph, Lauren M; Mohr, Margaret A et al. (2017) Rodent Models of Non-classical Progesterone Action Regulating Ovulation. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne) 8:165
Micevych, Paul E; Meisel, Robert L (2017) Integrating Neural Circuits Controlling Female Sexual Behavior. Front Syst Neurosci 11:42
Rudolph, L M; Bentley, G E; Calandra, R S et al. (2016) Peripheral and Central Mechanisms Involved in the Hormonal Control of Male and Female Reproduction. J Neuroendocrinol 28:
Rudolph, Lauren M; Cornil, Charlotte A; Mittelman-Smith, Melinda A et al. (2016) Actions of Steroids: New Neurotransmitters. J Neurosci 36:11449-11458
Micevych, Paul E; Wong, Angela May; Mittelman-Smith, Melinda Anne (2015) Estradiol Membrane-Initiated Signaling and Female Reproduction. Compr Physiol 5:1211-22
Chen, Claire; Kuo, John; Wong, Angela et al. (2014) Estradiol modulates translocator protein (TSPO) and steroid acute regulatory protein (StAR) via protein kinase A (PKA) signaling in hypothalamic astrocytes. Endocrinology 155:2976-85
Micevych, P; Sinchak, K (2013) Temporal and concentration-dependent effects of oestradiol on neural pathways mediating sexual receptivity. J Neuroendocrinol 25:1012-23
Sinchak, Kevin; Wagner, Edward J (2012) Estradiol signaling in the regulation of reproduction and energy balance. Front Neuroendocrinol 33:342-63

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