Transcriptome profiling of kisspeptin neurons from the mouse arcuate nucleus reveals new mechanisms in estrogenic control of fertility.


Kisspeptin neurons in the mediobasal hypothalamus (MBH) are critical targets of ovarian estrogen feedback regulating mammalian fertility. To reveal molecular mechanisms underlying this signaling, we thoroughly characterized the estrogen-regulated transcriptome of kisspeptin cells from ovariectomized transgenic mice substituted with 17β-estradiol or vehicle. MBH kisspeptin neurons were harvested using laser-capture microdissection, pooled, and subjected to RNA sequencing. Estrogen treatment significantly (p.adj. < 0.05) up-regulated 1,190 and down-regulated 1,139 transcripts, including transcription factors, neuropeptides, ribosomal and mitochondrial proteins, ion channels, transporters, receptors, and regulatory RNAs. Reduced expression of the excitatory serotonin receptor-4 transcript (Htr4) diminished kisspeptin neuron responsiveness to serotonergic stimulation. Many estrogen-regulated transcripts have been implicated in puberty/fertility disorders. Patients (n = 337) with congenital hypogonadotropic hypogonadism (CHH) showed enrichment of rare variants in putative CHH-candidate genes (e.g., LRP1B, CACNA1G, FNDC3A). Comprehensive characterization of the estrogen-dependent kisspeptin neuron transcriptome sheds light on the molecular mechanisms of ovary-brain communication and informs genetic research on human fertility disorders.