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Pubertal Development and Menarche


Address for correspondence: Sally Radovick, M.D., Professor of Pediatrics, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, 600 N. Wolfe Street, CMSC 406, Baltimore, MD 21287. Voice: +1-410-502-7556; fax: +1-410-502-7580.


Puberty is the developmental process that culminates in reproductive capability and is the result of a complex series of molecular and physiological events. The release of gonadotropin-releasing hormone from specialized neurons of the hypothalamus begins the hormonal cascade that causes gonadal activation and the physical changes of puberty. Several factors have been proposed to influence the activation of the hypothalamus to trigger puberty, but the involved pathways have not been fully elucidated. The recent observations that the age of pubertal onset may be lowering in American girls calls attention to the lack of knowledge of modulating factors that affect the pubertal process. Genes necessary for puberty have been found by studying persons who do not achieve puberty; such studies have provided insights into the pathways necessary for pubertal development. A multidisciplinary focus is required to elucidate the complex mechanisms involved in the initiation and progression of puberty.