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

GnRH neurons elaborate a long-range projection with shared axonal and dendritic functions.

PMID 23904605


Information processing by neurons has been traditionally envisioned to occur in discrete neuronal compartments. Specifically, dendrites receive and integrate synaptic inputs while axons initiate and conduct spikes to distal neuronal targets. We report here in mice, using morphological reconstructions and electrophysiology, that the gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons that control mammalian fertility do not conform to this stereotype and instead possess a single projection structure that functions simultaneously as an axon and dendrite. Specifically, we show that the GnRH neuron projection to the median eminence to control pituitary hormone secretion possesses a spike initiation site and conducts action potentials while also exhibiting spines and synaptic appositions along its entire length. Classical axonal or dendritic markers are not detectable in the projection process. Activation of ionotropic glutamate and/or GABA receptors along the GnRH neuron projection is capable of depolarizing the membrane potential and initiating action potentials. In addition, focal glutamate application to the projection is able to regulate the width of propagating spikes. These data demonstrate that GnRH neurons elaborate a previously uncharacterized neuronal projection that functions simultaneously as an axon and dendrite. This structure, termed a "dendron," greatly expands the dynamic control of GnRH secretion into the pituitary portal system to regulate fertility.