Negative feedback governs gonadotrope frequency-decoding of gonadotropin releasing hormone pulse-frequency

Stefan Lim, Lilach Pnueli, Jing Hui Tan, Zvi Naor, Gunaretnam Rajagopal, Philippa Melamed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The synthesis of the gonadotropin subunits is directed by pulsatile gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) from the hypothalamus, with the frequency of GnRH pulses governing the differential expression of the common α-subunit, luteinizing hormone β-subunit (LHβ) and follicle-stimulating hormone β-subunit (FSHβ). Three mitogen-activated protein kinases, (MAPKs), ERK1/2, JNK and p38, contribute uniquely and combinatorially to the expression of each of these subunit genes. In this study, using both experimental and computational methods, we found that dual specificity phosphatase regulation of the activity of the three MAPKs through negative feedback is required, and forms the basis for decoding the frequency of pulsatile GnRH. A fourth MAPK, ERK5, was shown also to be activated by GnRH. ERK5 was found to stimulate FSHβ promoter activity and to increase FSHβ mRNA levels, as well as enhancing its preference for low GnRH pulse frequencies. The latter is achieved through boosting the ultrasensitive behavior of FSHβ gene expression by increasing the number of MAPK dependencies, and through modulating the feedforward effects of JNK activation on the GnRH receptor (GnRH-R). Our findings contribute to understanding the role of changing GnRH pulse-frequency in controlling transcription of the pituitary gonadotropins, which comprises a crucial aspect in regulating reproduction. Pulsatile stimuli and oscillating signals are integral to many biological processes, and elucidation of the mechanisms through which the pulsatility is decoded explains how the same stimulant can lead to various outcomes in a single cell.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere7244
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9
StatePublished - 29 Sep 2009


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