Gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) is the primary hypothalamic factor responsible for the control of gonadotrophin secretion in vertebrates. However, within the last decade, two other hypothalamic neuropeptides have been found to play key roles in the control of reproductive functions: gonadotrophin-inhibitory hormone (GnIH) and kisspeptin. In 2000, we discovered GnIH in the quail hypothalamus. GnIH inhibits gonadotrophin synthesis and release in birds through actions on GnRH neurones and gonadotrophs, mediated via GPR147. Subsequently, GnIH orthologues were identified in other vertebrate species from fish to humans. As in birds, mammalian and fish GnIH orthologues inhibit gonadotrophin release, indicating a conserved role for this neuropeptide in the control of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis across species. Subsequent to the discovery of GnIH, kisspeptin, encoded by the KiSS-1 gene, was discovered in mammals. By contrast to GnIH, kisspeptin has a direct stimulatory effect on GnRH neurones via GPR54. GPR54 is also expressed in pituitary cells, but whether gonadotrophs are targets for kisspeptin remains unresolved. The KiSS-1 gene is also highly conserved and has been identified in mammals, amphibians and fish. We have recently found a second isoform of KiSS-1, designated KiSS-2, in several vertebrates, but not birds, rodents or primates. In this review, we highlight the discovery, mechanisms of action, and functional significance of these two chief regulators of the reproductive axis.
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