Neurotensin (NT)-containing neurons in the rostral portion of the medial preoptic nucleus (rMPN) of the brain may play a key role in regulating the pattern of secretion of GnRH, thereby influencing the reproductive cycle in females. The major goals of this study were to determine whether NT messenger RNA (mRNA) levels in the rMPN exhibit a unique pattern of expression in temporal association with the preovulatory LH surge and to assess whether NT neurons may communicate directly with GnRH neurons. We analyzed NT gene expression in rats using in situ hybridization over the day of proestrus and compared this with diestrous day 1. We also determined whether the high-affinity NT receptor (NT1) is expressed in GnRH neurons using dual-label in situ hybridization and whether this expression varies over the estrous cycle. We found that NT mRNA levels in the rMPN increase significantly on the day of proestrus, rising before the LH surge. No such change was detected on diestrous day 1, when the LH surge does not occur. Furthermore, we observed that a significant number of GnRH neurons coexpress NT1 mRNA and that the number of GnRH neurons expressing NT1 mRNA peaks on proestrus. Together with previous findings, our results suggest that increased expression of NT in the rMPN may directly stimulate GnRH neurons on proestrus, contributing to the LH surge. In addition, our results suggest that responsiveness of GnRH neurons to NT stimulation is enhanced on proestrus due to increased expression of NT receptors within GnRH neurons.
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