RFamide-related peptide 3 (RFRP3), the mammalian homologue of avian gonadotropin-inhibitory hormone, has been shown to negatively regulate the secretion of LH and may contribute to reproductive seasonality in some species. Herein, we examined the presence and potential role of the RFRP3-signaling system in regulating LH secretion in the mare during the breeding and nonbreeding seasons. Hypothalamic NPVF mRNA (the precursor mRNA for RFRP3) was detected at the level of the dorsomedial nucleus and paraventricular nucleus, but expression did not change with season. A greater number of RFRP3-expressing cells was observed throughout the rostral-caudal extension of the dorsomedial nucleus. Furthermore, adenohypophyseal expression of the RFRP3 receptor (NPFFR1) during the winter anovulatory season did not differ from that during either the follicular or luteal phases of the estrous cycle. When tested in primary adenohypophyseal cell culture or in vivo during both the breeding and nonbreeding seasons, neither equine nor ovine peptide sequences for RFRP3 suppressed basal or GnRH-mediated release of LH. However, infusion of RF9, an RFRP3 receptor-signaling antagonist, into seasonally anovulatory mares induced a robust increase in secretion of LH both before and following continuous treatment with GnRH. The results indicate that the cellular machinery associated with RFRP3 function is present in the equine hypothalamus and adenohypophysis. However, evidence for functionality of the RFRP3-signaling network was only obvious when an antagonist RF9 was employed. Because GnRH-induced release of LH was not affected by RF9, its actions may occur upstream from the gonadotrope to stimulate or disinhibit secretion of GnRH.
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Vol. 90 • No. 2