Degeneration of the ovary in middle-aged women results in castrate levels of ovarian steroids and increased gonadotropin secretion from the anterior pituitary gland. Ageing in women is also accompanied by significant changes in energy homeostasis. We have observed alterations in hypothalamic morphology and gene expression in older women, including hypertrophy and increased gene expression of neurokinin B (NKB) neurones, elevated levels of gonadotropin releasing-hormone (GnRH) mRNA and decreased numbers of neurones expressing pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) mRNA. To determine if loss of ovarian steroids could produce comparable changes in gene expression in young primates, we measured the effects of ovariectomy on NKB, GnRH and POMC gene expression in young cynomolgus monkeys. We also measured serum leptin and body weight to examine the consequences of ovariectomy on energy balance. NKB neurones in the infundibular nucleus of ovariectomized monkeys were larger, more numerous and displayed increased levels of NKB mRNA compared to those of intact controls. Moreover, ovariectomy increased the number of neurones expressing GnRH gene transcripts and elevated serum luteinizing hormone. By contrast, several parameters related to energy balance, including POMC gene expression, serum leptin and body weights, were unchanged by ovariectomy. Thus, the rise in NKB and GnRH gene expression in older women was simulated by ovariectomy in monkeys, but the changes in POMC gene expression and energy balance were not. This study provides strong support for the hypothesis that ovarian failure contributes to the increased NKB and GnRH gene expression observed in postmenopausal women.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience