The role of kisspeptin and gonadotropin inhibitory hormone in the seasonal regulation of reproduction in sheep

Jeremy T Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Sheep are seasonal breeders, experiencing an annual period of reproductive quiescence in response to increased photoperiod during the late-winter into spring and renaissance during the late summer. The nonbreeding (anestrous) season is characterized by a reduction in the pulsatile secretion of GnRH from the brain, in part because of an increase in negative feedback activity of estrogen. Neuronal populations in the hypothalamus that produce kisspeptin and gonadotropin-inhibitory hormone (GnIH) appear to be important for the seasonal shift in reproductive activity, and the former are also mandatory for puberty onset. Kisspeptin cells in the arcuate nucleus (ARC) and preoptic area appear to regulate GnRH neurons and transmit sex-steroid feedback signals to these neurons. Moreover, kisspeptin expression in the ARC is markedly up-regulated at the onset of the breeding season, as too are the number of kisspeptin fibers in close apposition to GnRH neurons. The lower levels of kisspeptin seen during the nonbreeding season can be corrected by infusion of kisspeptin, which causes ovulation in seasonally acyclic females. The role of GnIH is less clear, but mounting evidence supports a role for this neuropeptide in the inhibitory regulation of both GnRH secretion and gonadotropin release from the pituitary gland. Contrary to kisspeptin, GnIH expression is markedly reduced at the onset of the breeding season. In addition, the number of GnIH fibers in close apposition to GnRH neurons also decreases during this time. Importantly, exogenous GnIH treatment can block both the pulsatile release of LH and the preovulatory LH surge during the breeding season. In summary, it is most likely the integrated function of both these neuropeptide systems that modulate the annual shift in photoperiod to a physiological change in fertility.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75 - 84
Number of pages10
JournalDomestic Animal Endocrinology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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