How the gene expression and the release of luteinizing hormone releasing hormone (LHRH) are controlled in LHRH-secreting neurons is a very crucial and still debated topic of the neuroendocrinology. Several observations present in literature have recently indicated that glial cells may influence the activity of hypothalamic LHRH-secreting neurons, via the release of growth factors. The present review will summarize data obtained in our laboratory indicating that: (a) type 1 astrocytes, a kind of glial cells, are able to release in vitro growth factors belonging to the transforming growth factors beta (TGFβ) family (i.e. TGFβ1 and TGFβ2) which influence the gene expression and the release of the decapeptide in immortalized LHRH-secreting neurons; (b) glial cells are also able to influence the steroid metabolism occurring in these neurons and in some cases this effect is exerted by TGFβ1; (c) the mRNA levels of TGFβ1 and of basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), another growth factor involved in the control of LHRH-secreting neurons, are modified in the rat hypothalamus during the different phases of the estrous cycle; (d) steroid hormones are able to modulate the gene expression of TGFβ1 and bFGF both in vivo (i.e. in the whole hypothalamus of ovariectomized rats) and in vitro (cultures of type 1 astrocytes). On the basis of these results a possible functional correlation in the control of LHRH-secreting neurons between growth factors and gonadal steroids will be discussed and proposed.
- LHRH-secreting neuron
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