The gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) system, considered to be the final common pathway for the control of reproduction, has been difficult to study because of a lack of distinguishing characteristics and the scattered distribution of neurons. The development of a transgenic mouse in which the GnRH promoter drives expression of enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) has provided the opportunity to perform electrophysiological studies of GnRH neurons. In this study, neurons were dissociated from brain slices prepared from prepubertal female GnRH-EGFP mice. Both current- and voltage-clamp recordings were obtained from acutely dissociated GnRH neurons identified on the basis of EGFP expression. Most isolated GnRH-EGFP neurons fired spontaneous action potentials (recorded in cell-attached or whole-cell mode) that typically consisted of brief bursts (2-20 Hz) separated by 1-10 sec. At more negative resting potentials, GnRH-EGFP neurons exhibited oscillations in membrane potential, which could lead to bursting episodes lasting from seconds to minutes. These bursting episodes were often separated by minutes of inactivity. Rapid application of glutamate or NMDA increased firing activity in all neurons and usually generated small inward currents (<15 pA), although larger currents were evoked in the remaining neurons. Both AMPA and NMDA receptors mediated the glutamate-evoked inward currents. These results suggest that isolated GnRH-EGFP neurons from juvenile mice can generate episodes of repetitive burst discharges that may underlie the pulsatile secretion of GnRH, and glutamatergic inputs may contribute to the activation of endogenous bursts.
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