The gonadotrope is a complex cell that expresses receptors for gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) and estrogen. It has synthetic machinery for the production of 3 gonadotropin subunits which are assembled into two gonadotropins, luteinising hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). The production and secretion of LH and FSH are differentially regulated by GnRH and estrogen. Patterns of secretion of LH are dictated by the pulsatile release of GnRH from the median eminence as well as the feedback effects of estrogen. The means by which estrogen plays such an important role in the regulation of LH and FSH is reviewed in this chapter, with emphasis on work that has been done in the sheep. Estrogen regulates the second messenger systems in the gonadotrope as well as the number of GnRH receptors and the function of ion channels in the plasma membrane. Estrogen also regulates gene expression in these cells. Additionally, GnRH appears to regulate the level of estrogen receptor in the ovine gonadotrope, so there is substantial cross-talk between the signalling pathways for GnRH and estrogen. No clear picture has emerged as to how estrogen exerts a positive feedback effect on the gonadotrope and it is suggested that this might be forthcoming from more definitive studies on the way that estrogen regulates the second messenger systems and the trafficking of secretory vesicles.
- Gonadotrophin releasing hormone