Moenter Lab

The overall goal of our laboratory's research is to determine the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying episodic gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) secretion, as well as to understand the role of GnRH in the presentation of various forms of hypothalamic infertility. GnRH neurons form the final common pathway for the central regulation of reproduction in all vertebrates. GnRH is released in a pulsatile pattern that is critical for release of gonadotropic hormones by the pituitary gland. Further, the frequency of GnRH release changes throughout the female reproductive cycle and these changes are prerequisite for shifting the relative levels of the two gonadotropins to allow for ovarian follicular development and maturation. Persistence of high frequency GnRH release is a hallmark of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS, recently renamed MORS, metabolic ovarian reproductive syndrome), which affects approximately 8% of women and is a major cause of infertility and other health problems. Despite their importance, the mechanisms underlying episodic GnRH release are not well understood. This phenomenon is often referred to as the "GnRH-pulse generator". To study this pulse-generator we use transgenic mouse models in which the jellyfish reporter green fluorescent protein (GFP) is genetically targeted to GnRH neurons or other neurons in the brain that are important for controlling GnRH neurons, such as those that produce kisspeptin. These mice enable us to identify living neurons in brain slices and study them using electrophysiological, imaging and molecular approaches.

Coronal slice through the preoptic area showing green fluorescent protein identified GnRH neurons.
From Suter KJ, Song WJ, Sampson TL, Wuarin J-P, Saunders JT, Dudek, FE, Moenter SM 2000
Genetic targeting of green fluorescent protein to GnRH neurons: Characterization of whole-cell electrophysiological properties and morphology. Endocrinology 141:412-419.