Cyclical Regulation of GnRH Gene Expression in GT1–7 GnRH-Secreting Neurons by Melatonin
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The pineal hormone melatonin plays an important role in the neuroendocrine control of reproductive physiology, but its effects on hypothalamic GnRH neurons are not yet known. We have found that GT1-7 GnRH-secreting neurons express membrane-bound G protein-coupled melatonin receptors, mt1 (Mel-1a) and MT2 (Mel-1b) as well as the orphan nuclear receptors ROR alpha and RZR beta. Melatonin (1 nM) significantly downregulates GnRH mRNA levels in a 24-h cyclical manner, an effect that is specifically inhibited by the melatonin receptor antagonist luzindole (10 microM). Repression of GnRH gene expression by melatonin appears to occur at the transcriptional level and can be mapped to the GnRH neuron-specific enhancer located within the 5' regulatory region of the GnRH gene. Using transient transfection of GT1-7 cells, downregulation of GnRH gene expression by melatonin was further localized to five specific regions within the GnRH enhancer including -1827/-1819, -1780/-1772, -1746/-1738, -1736/-1728, and -1697/-1689. Interestingly, the region located at -1736/-1728 includes sequences that correspond to two direct repeats of hexameric consensus binding sites for members of the ROR/RZR orphan nuclear receptor family. To begin to dissect the mechanisms involved in the 24-h cyclical regulation of GnRH transcription, we have found that melatonin (10 nM) induces rapid internalization of membrane-bound mt1 receptors through a beta-arrestin 1-mediated mechanism. These results provide the first evidence that melatonin may mediate its neuroendocrine control on reproductive physiology through direct actions on the GnRH neurons of the hypothalamus, both at the level of GnRH gene expression and through the regulation of G protein-coupled melatonin receptors.
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