Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GNRH) is known as a pivotal upstream regulator of reproduction in vertebrates. However, reproduction is not compromised in the hypophysiotropic Gnrh3 knockout line in zebrafish (gnrh3-/-). In order to determine if Gnrh2, the only other Gnrh isoform in zebrafish brains, is compensating for the loss of Gnrh3, we generated a double Gnrh knockout zebrafish line. Surprisingly, the loss of both Gnrh isoforms resulted in no major impact on reproduction, indicating that a compensatory response, outside of the Gnrh system, was evoked. A plethora of factors acting along the reproductive hypothalamus–pituitary axis were evaluated as possible compensators based on neuroanatomical and differential gene expression studies. In addition, we also examined the involvement of feeding factors in the brain as potential compensators for Gnrh2, which has known anorexigenic effects. We found that the double knockout fish exhibited upregulation of several genes in the brain, specifically gonadotropin-inhibitory hormone (gnih), secretogranin 2 (scg2), tachykinin 3a (tac3a), and pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating peptide 1 (pacap1), and downregulation of agouti-related peptide 1 (agrp1), indicating the compensation occurs outside of Gnrh cells and therefore is a noncell autonomous response to the loss of Gnrh. While the differential expression of gnih and agrp1 in the double knockout line was confined to the periventricular nucleus and hypothalamus, respectively, the upregulation of scg2 corresponded with a broader neuronal redistribution in the lateral hypothalamus and hindbrain. In conclusion, our results demonstrate the existence of a redundant reproductive regulatory system that comes into play when Gnrh2 and Gnrh3 are lost.
Knockout of Gnrh2 and Gnrh3 in zebrafish does not impede reproduction, but invokes a potential compensatory response, including the upregulation of several reproductive and feeding factors, neuronal plasticity of Scg2, and downregulation of Agrp1.