The hypothalamic KNDy neural network underlies the emergence of the GnRH pulse generation

Principal investigator(s)Co-InvestigatorPhD student or Research Fellow(s)Project title
Professor Kevin O'Byrne (KCL)

Professor Krasimira Tsaneva-Atanasova (UoE)

Dr Xiao Feng Li (KCL) and Dr Margaritis Voliotis (UoE)

The hypothalamic KNDy neural network underlies the emergence of the GnRH pulse generation


Lay summary:

The ability to reproduce is fundamental for survival and is controlled by the reproductive system that coordinates activity in the brain, the pituitary gland and the ovaries in women and the testes in men.  Within the brain is a clock or neural oscillator that drives the release of intermittent pulses of a brain hormone called gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which sets in motion a cascade of hormonal signals that lead to stimulation of the ovaries and testes. The nature of this molecular clock has remained elusive, but about 10 years ago a new set of brain cells were discovered that contained 3 particular brain chemicals, or neuropeptides: two well-known ones called Neurokinin-B and Dynorphin; and a totally new one called Kisspeptin. These new cells are called KNDy neurons, and are thought to form the network that drives the periodic release of GnRH.

This seed corn project will seek to understand how the KNDy neurons operate to generate GnRH pulses, using a combination of experimental manipulation and mathematical modelling. The project involves Professor Kevin O’Byrne and Dr Xiao Feng Li from King’s College London and Professor Krasimira Tsaneva-Atanasova and Dr Margaritis Voliotis from the University of Exeter. The team’s approach offers a unique opportunity to discover the nature of the GnRH pulse generator, which is at the centre of reproduction, and reveal its operational characteristics. This will help future developments of more effective treatments for fertility disorders and personalised medicines in reproductive health.