Kisspeptin - the hormone that starts ovulation

September 4th, 2008 - 11:20 am ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Sep 4 (IANS) Kisspeptin, the small hormone that starts puberty, also plays a vital role in the brain to trigger ovulation, scientists have found. The finding may hold the key to new therapies for infertility.In 2003, researchers found that the then recently discovered molecule, dubbed kisspeptin, was a vitally important in starting puberty.

Now, researchers led by Allan Herbison, a professor at the University of Otago, in collaboration with Cambridge University counterparts, have provided the first ever evidence that kisspeptin signalling in the brain is also essential for ovulation to occur in adults. Their paper appears in the prestigious Journal of Neuroscience.

Studying female mice, researchers found that signalling between kisspeptin and its cell receptor GPR54 was essential to activate gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons, the nerve cells known to initiate ovulation.

“This is an exciting finding, as people have been trying to find out precisely how the brain controls ovulation for more than 30 years. This work now reveals a crucial link in the brain circuitry responsible,” Herbison said.

The study indicates that disorders affecting the signalling between kisspeptin and the GPR54 receptors will result in women being unable to ovulate, he said.

“Targeting drugs to this chemical switch to make it work properly may help some people who are infertile, while finding compounds that can block this switch could lead to new contraceptives,” he said.

As an approach to treating infertility in some women, it could allow for ovulation to be induced in a more natural way than current therapies, he said.

“Our findings show that kisspeptin may be a promising area to focus future research efforts aimed at either enhancing or regulating human fertility.”

Oddly enough, the name kisspeptin is completely unrelated to its association with reproduction, Herbison said.

“The researchers who originally discovered the gene that codes for kisspeptin had no idea that it had a role in fertility - it was named in honour of Hershey Kisses, as Hershey was the town in the US where the scientists were based.”

Herbison said his research group is now investigating what role kisspeptin-GPR54 signalling may play in the male reproductive system.

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