LHRH is the neuropeptide responsible for reproductive function. Prenatally, LHRH expression begins when neurons are in the olfactory pit and continues as these cells migrate into the brain. Thus, LHRH neurons maintain neuropeptide expression through very distinct environments. The regulatory interactions that control onset and continued expression of the LHRH phenotype are unknown. To begin to address this question primary LHRH neurons were removed from nasal explants at different ages. A complementary DNA (cDNA) subtraction screen was performed comparing a 3.5-days in vitro LHRH neuron [approximately embryonic day 15 (E 15) in vivo] to two 10.5-days in vitro LHRH neurons (approximately postnatal day 1 in vivo). The transcription factor activator protein-2 (AP-2α) was differentially expressed and was present in the developmentally younger LHRH neuron. In vivo analysis revealed that LHRH neurons expressedAP-2 as they migrated across the cribriform plate and into the forebrain beginning on E13.5, but that coexpression of LHRH and AP-2 was no longer detected in postnatal day i animals. This suggested a regulatory role for AP-2 in LHRH neurons. Analysis of animals lacking AP-2α revealed a dramatic decrease in forebrain LHRH neurons between E13.5 and E14.5, correlating with normal onset of AP-2 expression in LHRH neurons as they entered the central nervous system. Nasal cells robustly expressing LHRH were still present on E 14.5. The continued presence of forebrain LHRH cells is proposed based on a second marker, galanin, and lack of increased apoptotic/necrotic cells in this region. A decrease in LHRH messenger RNA in forebrain neurons indicates regulation of LHRH occurred at the transcriptional or posttranscriptional level in mutant animals. These resuits indicate a developmentally restricted involvement of the transcription factor AP-2 in LHRH expression once the LHRH neurons have migrated into the forebrain, but before establishment of an adult-like distribution.
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