It is now well established that exogenous GH promotes sexual maturation and reproductive function. The possibility that this may reflect physiological actions of endogenous GH has, however, rarely been considered. Correlative changes in GH secretion and reproductive state (puberty, pregnancy, lactation, menopause and ovarian cycles) are thus the primary focus of this review. GH secretion is, for instance, elevated during major transitions in reproductive status such as puberty and pregnancy. In some cases, augmented circulating GH levels are paired with hepatic GH resistance. This interaction may permit selective activation of gonadal responses to GH without activating IGF-I-mediated systemic responses. This selective activation may also be mediated by autocrine, paracrine or intracrine GH actions, since GH is also synthesized in reproductive tissues. Correlative changes in GH secretion and reproductive state may be mediated by events at the hypothalamic, pituitary and gonadal level. In addition to direct effects on gonadal function, GH may influence reproductive activity by increasing gonadotropin secretion at the hypothalamic and pituitary level and by enhancing gonadotropin responsiveness at the gonadal level. The close association between reproductive status and the somatotrophic axis supports the physiological importance of GH in reproductive function.
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