A surge of GnRH release signals the LH surge that triggers ovulation. The GnRH surge is dependent on a switch in estradiol feedback from negative to positive and, in rodents, a daily neural signal, likely from the suprachiasmatic nuclei. Vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) may be involved in suprachiasmatic nuclei-GnRH neuron communication. Here we assessed the effects of acute VIP (5 min treatment) on GnRH neuron function using targeted extracellular recordings of firing activity of GnRH neurons in brain slices. We examined the effect of VIP on firing rate at different times of day using an established ovariectomized, estradiol-treated (OVX+E) mouse model that exhibits daily LH surges timed to the late afternoon. Cells from OVX animals (no estradiol) did not respond to VIP, regardless of time of day. With estradiol, the effect of VIP on GnRH neurons was dependent on the time of recording. During negative feedback, OVX+E cells did not respond. VIP increased firing in cells recorded during surge onset, but this excitatory response was reduced at surge peak. Acute treatment of OVX+E cells during surge peak with a VIP receptor antagonist decreased GnRH neuron firing. This suggests endogenous VIP may both increase GnRH neuron firing during the surge and occlude response to exogenous VIP. These data provide functional evidence for VIP effects on GnRH neurons and indicate that both estradiol and time of day gate the GnRH neuron response to this peptide. VIP may provide an excitatory signal from the circadian clock that helps time the GnRH surge.
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