The pattern of the gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) stimulus is critically important in the regulation of pituitary gonadotropin secretion and continuous infusions down-regulate secretion while intermittent pulses maintain luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) responsiveness. We examined the effects of pulsatile GnRH administration on pituitary GnRH receptors (GnRH-R) and gonadotropin secretion in the presence of physiological concentrations of testosterone (T) to elucidate the mechanisms and sites of action of GnRH and T on the pituitary gonadotroph. Castrate male rats received one, two, or four testosterone (T) implants (serum T concentrations of 1.1, 2.4, and 5.2 ng/ml, respectively) to suppress endogenous GnRH secretion. Subsequently, intracarotid pulse injections of GnRH (5-250 ng/pulse) or saline in controls were given every 30 min for 48 h, after which gonadotropin responses and pituitary GnRH-R were measured. In control rats, the T implants prevented the rise in GnRH-R that was seen in castrates (empty implant--600 fmol/mg protein) and maintained receptors at the level that was present in intact animals (300 fmol/mg). Pulsatile GnRH administration increased GnRH-R in castrate T-implanted rats, but the response was dependent on the serum T concentration. With one T implant, increasing GnRH doses per pulse stimulated GnRH-R in a linear manner and the maximum receptor concentration (703 +/- 99 fmol/mg) was seen after the 250 ng GnRH dose. In the presence of two T implants, GnRH-R was maximal (705 +/- 45 fmol/mg) after the 25-ng dose and higher doses did not increase receptors above control values. With four T implants, GnRH doses of 5 ng induced a maximum response, 17-50 ng/pulse did not increase GnRH-R, but receptors were again increased by the 250-ng dose (633 +/- 86 fmol/mg). After 48 h of pulsatile GnRH administration there was no correlation between the number of GnRH-R and LH responses to GnRH. In rats with one or two T implants, LH responses were absent after all but the 250-ng doses. In contrast, LH responsiveness was not impaired in the presence of four implants. Thus, low dose GnRH pulses down-regulate LH secretion by an action at a post GnRH-R site, and this effect is regulated by testosterone. The results show that GnRH, given in a pulsatile manner, regulates its own receptor, and physiological increases in serum T produce a 50-fold increase in the sensitivity of GnRH-R stimulation by GnRH.
A Garcia, M Schiff, J C Marshall