• Human GnRH Neuroblasts;
  • KiSS-1/GPR54;
  • Sex Steroids;
  • Leptin;
  • Puberty


Introduction.  The G-protein-coupled receptor 54 (GPR54) and its ligand kisspeptin, encoded by the KiSS-1 gene, have been involved in the molecular mechanisms underlying the reawakening of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons at puberty. GPR54 mutations cause hypogonadotropic hypogonadism in human and mice.

Aim.  Our aim was to study regulation of the KiSS-1/GPR54 system using a previously characterized primary culture of human fetal GnRH-secreting neuroblasts, FNC-B4.

Methods.  KiSS-1/GPR54 gene and protein expressions in FNC-B4 were evaluated by quantitative reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (qRT–PCR), immunocytochemistry, and Western blot. Expression of kisspeptin and GPR54 in fetal olfactory mucosa (OM), from which FNC-B4 cells were derived, was analyzed with confocal microscopy.

Main Outcome Measures.  Regulation of KiSS-1/GPR54 expression in FNC-B4 was evaluated in response to sexual steroids and leptin. Effect of kisspeptin on GnRH secretion and migration in FNC-B4 was also investigated.

Results.  Kisspeptin and GPR54 were immunolocalized and co-expressed with GnRH in OM and FNC-B4 cells. Kisspeptin (1 µM, 24 hours) induced GnRH secretion, but not gene expression, and inhibited migration (IC50 = 6.28 ± 3.71 nM) in FNC-B4. The 24-hour exposure to increasing concentrations of 17-β-estradiol (0.01–1 nM) significantly and dose-dependently decreased, whereas androgens (dihydrotestosterone [DHT], 0.01–1 nM) significantly stimulated KiSS-1/GPR54 mRNA. Testosterone (1 nM) showed a stimulatory effect only after blocking its aromatization with letrozole. In addition, leptin (1 nM, 24 hours), an adipocyte-derived hormone acting on the reproductive axis, significantly increased KiSS-1/GPR54 expression in FNC-B4. Immunocytochemistry and Western blot analysis confirmed the regulatory effects found with qRT–PCR. Interestingly, leptin (1 nM, 24 hours) also significantly increased both leptin receptor (LEPR) and androgen receptor (AR) mRNA. DHT (0.01–1 nM) also up-regulated LEPR and AR genes, suggesting a synergistic action between leptin and androgens aimed to up-regulate the KiSS-1/GPR54 system, which, in contrast, was inhibited by estrogens.

Conclusion.  Our results indicate that an interplay between metabolic and sexual hormones may trigger the KiSS-1/GPR54 signaling to GnRH neurons suggesting new mechanisms which regulate puberty onset. Morelli A, Marini M, Mancina R, Luconi M, Vignozzi L, Fibbi B, Filippi S, Pezzatini A, Forti G, Vannelli GB, and Maggi M. Sex steroids and leptin regulate the “first kiss” (KiSS 1/G-protein-coupled receptor 54 system) in human gonadotropin-releasing-hormone-secreting neuroblasts. J Sex Med 2008;5:1097–1113.