Development

It's Complicated

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Science  24 Jun 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6037, pp. 1485
DOI: 10.1126/science.332.6037.1485-b

Puberty in humans responds to factors as varied as nutritional status and social interactions. But sooner or later, pulses of gonadotropin-releasing hormone begin and puberty ensues. Previous studies had implicated the neuropeptide kisspeptin in initiating puberty, but Mayer and Boehm now show that puberty initiation may be more complicated. Studying mice, the authors selectively ablated neurons that expressed kisspeptin, or its receptor, in young or mature mice. Although deletion of the genes encoding kisspeptin or its receptor result in infertility and deficient gonadal development, toxin-mediated ablation of neurons that express kisspeptin did not. If the ablation occurred in young mice, the mice went through puberty and reached fertility, although with smaller-than-normal gonads. If the ablation occurred in mature mice, these mice became infertile. The differential sensitivity of mice to kisspeptin gene deletion compared to deletion of kisspeptin-expressing neurons indicates that there are probably redundancies in the puberty-initiating machinery, which, given the importance of this process to the success of the species, may make sense.

Nat. Neurosci. 14, 704 (2011).

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