Rufous-winged Sparrows, Aimophila carpalis, reside in the Sonoran desert and although testicular development is initiated in the spring under the influence of increasing day length, breeding occurs opportunistically in summer in association with heavy rainfall or "monsoon". The aim of this study in free-living male Rufous-winged Sparrows was to establish the relationship between concentrations of plasma luteinizing hormone (LH) and testosterone (T), and breeding associated with heavy rainfall, and to investigate whether breeding is mediated by changes in pituitary gland sensitivity to gonadotropin releasing hormone-I (GnRH) and the recently discovered avian gonadotropin-inhibitory hormone (GnIH). Concentrations of plasma LH and T were relatively low until mid-summer, but increased rapidly and transiently immediately prior to the monsoon which occurred after the summer solstice, when day lengths were decreasing. At this time the birds came into full breeding condition. An injection of chicken GnRH (10 ng) increased plasma LH within 2 min when given before or during the monsoon. An injection of GnIH (1 μg) did not affect plasma LH within 2 min during the monsoon and did not decrease GnRH-elicited LH secretion before or during the monsoon. No experimental treatment affected plasma T concentrations. The data suggest in male Rufous-winged Sparrows that the seasonal increase in plasma LH associated with summer monsoon results from increased stimulation of the pituitary gland by GnRH, rather than from a change in the responsiveness of the gland to GnRH, and that GnIH does not play an acute role in this mechanism. However, a possible chronic role for GnIH in the seasonal control of LH synthesis and secretion through an inhibitory effect on the hypothalamic GnRH system remains to be investigated.
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