We previously isolated a novel dodecapeptide containing a C-terminal -Arg-Phe-NH(2) sequence, SIKPSAYLPLRF-NH(2) (RFamide peptide), from the Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica) brain. This novel quail peptide was shown to be located in neurons of the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) and their terminals in the median eminence (ME), and to decrease gonadotropin release from cultured anterior pituitary in adult birds. We therefore designated this peptide gonadotropin-inhibitory hormone (GnIH). Furthermore, a cDNA encoding the GnIH precursor polypeptide has been characterized. To understand the physiological roles of this peptide, in the present study we analyzed developmental changes in the expressions of GnIH precursor mRNA and the mature peptide GnIH during embryonic and posthatch ages in the quail diencephalon including the PVN and ME. GnIH precursor mRNA was expressed in the diencephalon on embryonic day 10 (E10) and showed a significant increase on E17, just before hatch. GnIH was also detected in the diencephalon on E10 and increased significantly around hatch. Subsequently, the diencephalic GnIH content decreased temporarily, and again increased progressively until adulthood. GnIH-like immunoreactive (GnIH-ir) neurons were localized in the PVN on E10, but GnIH-ir fibers did not extend to the ME. However, GnIH-ir neurons increased in the PVN on E17, just before hatch, and GnIH-ir fibers extended to the external layer of the ME, as in adulthood. These results suggest that GnIH begins its function around hatch and acts as a hypothalamic factor to regulate gonadotropin release in the bird.
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