The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience

In vivo recordings of GnRH neuron firing reveal heterogeneity and dependence upon GABAA receptor signaling.

PMID 23719807


The gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons are the key cells regulating fertility in all mammalian species. The scattered distribution of these neurons has made investigation of their properties extremely difficult and the key goal of recording their electrical activity in vivo near impossible. The caudal-most extension of the GnRH neuron continuum brings some cells very close to the base of the brain at the level of the anterior hypothalamic area. Taking insight from this, we developed an experimental procedure in anesthetized GnRH-GFP mice that allows the electrical activity of these GnRH neurons to be recorded in vivo. On-cell recordings revealed that the majority of GnRH neurons (86%) were spontaneously active, exhibiting a range of firing patterns, although only a minority (15%) exhibited burst firing. Mean firing frequencies ranged from 0.06 to 3.65 Hz, with the most common interspike interval being ~500 ms. All GnRH neurons tested were activated by AMPA and kisspeptin. Whereas the GABAA receptor agonist muscimol evoked excitatory, inhibitory, or mixed effects on GnRH neuron firing, the GABAA receptor antagonist picrotoxin resulted in a consistent suppression of firing. These observations represent the first electrical recordings of GnRH neurons in vivo. They reveal that GnRH neurons in vivo exhibit considerable heterogeneity in their firing patterns with both similarities and differences to firing in vitro. These variable patterns of firing in vivo are found to be critically dependent upon ongoing GABAA receptor signaling.