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New human reproductive hormone could lead to novel contraceptives
Date:12/22/2009

keley researchers extracted two versions of the hormone from human brains (five human hypothalami). They found that the human GnIH gene produces a precursor protein that is cut up to form 12 and 8 amino acid mature peptides.

"One of the peptides in sheep has the same amino acid sequence as the human peptide, so we can study its activity in sheep to learn about its activity in humans," Bentley said. "It's likely that the function of GnIH is evolutionarily conserved."

They also showed that the hormones are present in a region of the brain, the hypothalamus, that controls reproduction. In addition, GnIH affects nerve cells that secrete GnRH, which is in line with previous findings that GnIH down-regulates GnRH.

Finally, they found that the hypothalamus and pituitary two key parts of the reproductive axis in the brain have receptors for the hormones.

All the previous work on birds, rodents, sheep and even macaque monkeys much of it performed by Bentley's group and by a group led by the discoverer of GnIH, Kazuyoshi Tsutsui at Waseda University in Tokyo hint at a wealth of interactions between GnIH and the reproductive system. Only recently, the human hormone was shown to inhibit the release of gonadotropin in sheep.

"GnIH pushes the pause button on reproduction, but in a variety of ways," Bentley said. "It can act on GnRH neurons in the hypothalamus, inhibiting GnRH release; it can act directly on pituitary; or it can influence the gonads directly. The overall effect is to inhibit reproduction, but at different levels of the reproductive axis."

GnIH might even be a key regulator of puberty, Ubuka said.

Bentley and Ubuka continue to investigate how GnIH acts in humans as well as in starlings and zebra finches.


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Contact: Robert Sanders
rsanders@berkeley.edu
510-643-6998
University of California - Berkeley
Source:Eurekalert

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