Immunoreactive distribution of gonadotropin‐inhibitory hormone precursor, RFRP, in a temperate bat species (
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Gonadotropin-inhibitory hormone (GnIH, also known RFRP-3 in mammals) is an important regulator of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis and downstream reproductive physiology. Substantial species differences exist in the localization of cell bodies producing RFRP-3 and patterns of fiber immunoreactivity in the brain, raising the question of functional differences. Many temperate bat species exhibit unusual annual reproductive patterns. Male bats upregulate spermatogenesis in late spring which is asynchronous with periods of mating in the fall, while females have the physiological capacity to delay their reproductive investment over winter via sperm storage or delayed ovulation/fertilization. Neuroendocrine mechanisms regulating reproductive timing in male and female bats are not well-studied. We provide the first description of RFRP-precursor peptide of GnIH -expression and localization in the brain of any bat using a widespread temperate species (Eptesicus fuscus, big brown bat) as a model. RFRP mRNA expression was detected in the hypothalamus, testes, and ovaries of big brown bats. Cellular RFRP-immunoreactivity was observed within the periventricular nuclei, dorsomedial nucleus of the hypothalamus, arcuate nucleus (Arc), and median eminence (ME). As in other vertebrates, RFRP fiber immunoreactivity was widespread, with the greatest density observed in the hypothalamus, preoptic area, Arc, ME, midbrain, and thalamic nuclei. Putative interactions between RFRP-ir fibers and gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) cell bodies were observed in 16% of GnRH-immunoreactive cells, suggesting direct regulation of GnRH via RFRP signaling. This characterization of RFRP distribution contributes to a deeper understanding of bat neuroendocrinology, which serves as foundation for manipulative approaches examining changes in reproductive neuropeptide signaling in response to environmental and physiological challenges within, and among, bat species.
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