Recent studies suggest that astrocytes modulate the GnRH-induced LH surge. In particular, we have shown that the surface area of astrocytes that ensheath GnRH neurons exhibits diurnal rhythms. Vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) influences numerous aspects of astrocyte function in multiple brain regions and is a neurotransmitter in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) that affects GnRH neurons. The goals of this study were to: 1) assess whether astrocytes that surround GnRHneurons express VIP receptors, 2) determine the effects VIP suppression in the SCN on the morphometry of astrocytes surrounding GnRH neurons, and 3) assess whether this effect mimics aging-like changes in surface area of astrocytes. Young rats were ovariectomized (d 0), implanted with cannulae into the SCN (d 5), injected with VIP antisense (antioligo) or random sequence oligonucleotides, implanted with capsules containing 17β-estradiol dissolved in oil (d 7), and perfused at 0300, 1400, and 1800 h (d 9). Brains were processed for immunocytochemistry. Our results demonstrate that astrocytes in close apposition to GnRH neurons express VIP receptors. Antioligo treatment blocked diurnal rhythms in surface area of astrocytes ensheathing GnRH neurons. The absence of diurnal rhythms resembles observations in middle-aged rats. Together these findings suggest that the ability of the VIP-containing neurons in the SCN to relay diurnal information to GnRH neurons may be by influencing dynamic changes in the morphometry of astrocytes that surround GnRH neurons. Furthermore, the absence of a VIP rhythm in aging animals may lead to altered GnRH activity via astrocyte-dependent mechanisms.
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