Hypothalamic molecular changes underlying natural reproductive senescence in the female rat

Bailey A. Kermath, Penny D. Riha, Michael J. Woller, Andrew Wolfe, Andrea C. Gore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The role of the hypothalamus in female reproductive senescence is unclear. Here we identified novel molecular neuroendocrine changes during the natural progression from regular reproductive cycles to acyclicity in middle-aged female rats, comparable with the perimenopausal progression in women. Expression of 48 neuroendocrine genes was quantified within three hypothalamic regions: the anteroventral periventricular nucleus, the site of steroid positive feedback onto GnRH neurons; the arcuate nucleus (ARC), the site of negative feedback and pulsatile GnRH release; and the median eminence (ME), the site of GnRH secretion. Surprisingly, the majority of changes occurred in the ARC and ME, with few effects in anteroventral periventricular nucleus. The overall pattern was increased mRNA levels with chronological age and decreases with reproductive cycle status in middle-aged rats. Affected genes included transcription factors (Stat5b, Arnt, Ahr), sex steroid hormone receptors (Esr1, Esr2, Pgr, Ar), steroidogenic enzymes (Sts, Hsd17b8), growth factors (Igf1, Tgfa), and neuropeptides (Kiss1, Tac2, Gnrh1). Bionetwork analysis revealed regionspecific correlations between genes and hormones. Immunohistochemical analyses of kisspeptin and estrogen receptor-α in the ARC demonstrated age-related decreases in kisspeptin cell numbers as well as kisspeptin-estrogen receptor-α dual-labeled cells. Taken together, these results identify unexpectedly strong roles for the ME and ARC during reproductive decline and highlight fundamental differences between middle-aged rats with regular cycles and all other groups. Our data provide evidence of decreased excitatory stimulation and altered hormone feedback with aging and suggest novel neuroendocrine pathways that warrant future study. Furthermore, these changes may impact other neuroendocrine systems that undergo functional declines with age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3597-3609
Number of pages13
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology


Dive into the research topics of 'Hypothalamic molecular changes underlying natural reproductive senescence in the female rat'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this