Genes, Hormones, and Puberty

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Science  07 Nov 2003:
Vol. 302, Issue 5647, pp. 953
DOI: 10.1126/science.302.5647.953a

Hundreds of handbooks have been written to guide adolescents and parents through the emotional turbulence that defines puberty, yet remarkably little is known about the physiological mechanisms regulating this critical stage of human development. Puberty begins when the brain starts to secrete gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which in turn triggers the release of pituitary hormones that activate gonadal function.

To identify genetic factors that modulate the onset of puberty, Seminara et al. and de Roux et al. studied an inherited form of a human disorder called hypogonadotropic hypogonadism, in which individuals fail to go through puberty. The two groups independently identified mutations in GPR54, a gene coding for a G protein-coupled receptor, and complementary studies of Gpr54-deficient mice by Seminara et al. suggested that loss of this receptor disrupts processing or secretion of GnRH. These findings could ultimately lead to new therapies for disorders characterized by precocious or delayed puberty. — PAK

N. Engl. J. Med. 349, 1614 (2003); Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 100, 10972 (2003).

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