Novel localization of NMDA receptors within neuroendocrine gonadotropin-releasing hormone terminals

Y. I N Weiling, John M. Mendenhall, Shawn B. Bratton, Twethida Oung, William G M Janssen, John Morrison, Andrea C. Gore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


About 1000 hypothalamic neurons synthesize and release gonadotropin- releasing hormone (GnRH), the master molecule of reproduction in all mammals. At the level of the median eminence at the base of the brain, where GnRH and other hypothalamic releasing hormones are secreted into the capillary system leading to the anterior pituitary gland, there is non-synaptic regulation of neurohormone release by a number of central neurotransmitters. For example, glutamate, the major excitatory amino acid in the brain, directly regulates GnRH release from nerve terminals via NMDA receptors (NMDARs). Moreover, the effects of glutamate action on GnRH secretion are potentiated by estrogens, and this relates to the physiologic control of ovulation by the hypothalamus. We sought to determine the ultrastructural relationship between GnRH neuroterminals and NMDARs, and this regulation by estradiol. Using immunofluorescent confocal microscopy, postembedding immunogold electron microscopy, fractionation, and Western blotting, we demonstrated: (i) GnRH is localized in large dense-core vesicles of neurosecretory profiles/terminals, (ii) the NMDAR1 subunit is found primarily on large dense-core vesicles of neurosecretory profiles/terminals, (iii) there is extensive colocalization of GnRH and NMDAR1 on the same vesicles, and (iv) estradiol modestly but significantly alters the distribution of NMDAR1 in GnRH neuroterminals by increasing expression of NMDAR1 on large dense-core vesicles. Western blots of fractionated median eminence support the presence of NMDAR1 in subcellular fractions containing large dense-core vesicles. These data are the first to show the presence of the NMDAR on neuroendocrine secretory vesicles, its co-expression with GnRH, and its regulation by estradiol. The results provide a novel anatomical site for the NMDAR and may represent a new mechanism for the regulation of GnRH release.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)662-673
Number of pages12
JournalExperimental Biology and Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Electron microscopy
  • Estrogen
  • GnRH
  • Large dense-core vesicle
  • Median eminence
  • NMDA receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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