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Stress rapidly suppresses in vivo LH pulses and increases activation of RFRP-3 neurons in male mice


Restraint stress is a psychosocial stressor that suppresses reproductive status, including LH pulsatile secretion, but the neuroendocrine mechanisms underlying this inhibition remains unclear. Reproductive neural populations upstream of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons, such as kisspeptin, neurokinin B and RFRP-3 (GnIH) neurons, are possible targets for psychosocial stress to inhibit LH pulses, but this has not been well examined, especially in mice in which prior technical limitations prevented assessment of in vivo LH pulse secretion dynamics. Here, we examined whether one-time acute restraint stress alters in vivo LH pulsatility and reproductive neural populations in male mice, and what the time-course is for such alterations. We found that endogenous LH pulses in castrated male mice are robustly and rapidly suppressed by one-time, acute restraint stress, with suppression observed as quickly as 12–18 min. This rapid LH suppression parallels with increased in vivo corticosterone levels within 15 min of restraint stress. Although Kiss1, Tac2 and Rfrp gene expression in the hypothalamus did not significantly change after 90 or 180 min restraint stress, arcuate Kiss1 neural activation was significantly decreased after 180 min. Interestingly, hypothalamic Rfrp neuronal activation was strongly increased at early times after restraint stress initiation, but was attenuated to levels lower than controls by 180 min of restraint stress. Thus, the male neuroendocrine reproductive axis is quite sensitive to short-term stress exposure, with significantly decreased pulsatile LH secretion and increased hypothalamic Rfrp neuronal activation occurring rapidly, within minutes, and decreased Kiss1 neuronal activation also occurring after longer stress durations.

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