Mechanisms governing the timing of puberty in pigs are poorly understood. A genome-wide association study for age at first estrus in pigs identified candidate genes including neuropeptide FF receptor 2 (NPFFR2), which is a putative receptor for RFamide-related peptides (RFRP). RFRP has been shown to negatively regulate secretion of reproductive hormones from hypothalamic and pituitary tissue of pigs in culture. Here, the porcine NPFFR2 gene was further screened and four potentially functional variants were identified to be associated with age at first estrus in pigs (1,288 gilts). The RFRP neurons in the porcine hypothalamus were localized in the paraventricular and dorsomedial nuclei with RFRP fibers in the lateral hypothalamic area. There were marked changes in expression of NPFF receptors in the anterior pituitary gland and hypothalamus of gilts beginning with the peripubertal period. The hypothesis that NPFF receptor function is related to secretion of luteinizing hormone (LH) in gilts was tested with various NPFF receptor ligands. The NPFF receptor antagonist RF9 stimulated a pulse-like release of LH in prepubertal gilts. The putative NPFF receptor agonist RFRP3modestly suppressed LH pulses in ovariectomized (OVX) prepubertal gilts. A porcine-specific RFRP2 failed to have an effect on LH secretion in OVX prepubertal gilts despite its high degree of homology to avian gonadotropin-inhibitory hormone. Results indicate that an RFRP system is present in the pig and that NPFFR2 is important for pubertal onset in gilts. It is not clear if this regulation involves major control of LH secretion or another unknown mechanism.
Neuropeptide FF receptors play a role in attainment of puberty in pigs.