Immunoreactive luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) was first detected at 15 days of gestation in ganglion cells associated with the peripheral, intracranial, and central parts of the nervus terminalis of the rat. LHRH was not detected in any other structure of the central nervous system at this age.
In the 17-day-old fetal rat, 62% of the total LHRH-reactive neuronal population was found in ganglion cells of the nervus terminalis. At this same age, immunoreactive beta-luteinizing hormone (β-LH) was first seen in gonadotropes of the anterior pituitary gland.
At 19 days of gestation, 31% of the total number of LHRH-reactive neurons observed in the rat brain was found in the nervus terminalis, and immunoreactive processes were first seen in the organum vasculosum of the lamina terminalis and in the median eminence.
Our data indicate that from 15 to 19 days of gestation the nervus terminalis is a principal source of LHRH in the fetal rat. Presence of the decapeptide in the nervus terminalis prior to appearance of β-LH in the anterior pituitary suggests a possible role for LHRH in this system on maturation of the gonadotropes and differentiation of the brain-pituitary-gonadal axis.