The pituitary gonadotropins, luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), are mainly under the control of hypothalamic gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which regulates male and female gonadal function. GnRH is released in a pulsatile manner from the hypothalamus, and the frequency of GnRH pulses determines the dominance of output of LH and FSH from pituitary gonadotrophs. That is, more rapid pulses of GnRH preferentially increase synthesis and secretion of LH, whereas FSH is preferentially stimulated by slower GnRH pulses. The detailed mechanisms underlying this phenomenon remain unknown. Pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP) was originally identified as a hypothalamic activator of cAMP production in pituitary cells. PACAP is produced within the pituitary gonadotroph as well as in the central nervous system. PACAP stimulates gonadotropin alpha-, LHbeta-, and FSHbeta-subunits as well as receptors for GnRH in the pituitary gonadotropin-secreting cells. In addition, its own receptor, PACAP type I receptor (PAC1R), is also regulated by PACAP in gonadotrophs. GnRH stimulates expression of PACAP as well as PAC1R, and lower frequencies of GnRH pulses preferentially increase PACAP and PAC1R expression in gonadotrophs. Increasing concentrations of PACAP further increase the levels of gonadotropin subunit and that increasing amounts of PAC1R in gonadotrophs potentiates the effects of PACAP or GnRH on gonadotropin subunit expression. In addition, we have observed that GnRH-increased FSHbeta-subunit expression was prevented in the presence of PAC1R antagonist. These observations suggest the involvement of locally produced PACAP and its PAC1R in the differential regulation of specific gonadotropin subunit expression by pulsatile GnRH stimulation. Here, we review the possible involvement of PACAP and its PAC1R in gonadotropin control on the basis of our observations with gonadotroph cell lines.
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Vol. 88 • No. 2