Release of gonadotropins in adult rodents is sex specific and dependent upon kisspeptin (Kiss1) neurons. This crucial pathway within the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis is profoundly influenced by neonatal estrogens, which induce a male-like phenotype. Classically, estrogen activity is mediated via the estrogen receptors α and β (ERα and ERβ), but the relative roles each plays in organizing the sex-specific ontogeny of kisspeptin signaling pathways remain unresolved. Thus, the present study used in situ hybridization histochemistry (ISHH) to map the temporal and sexually dimorphic neonatal mRNA expression profiles of ERα, ERβ, and Kiss1 in the anterioventral periventricular nucleus (AVPV), medial preoptic area (MPOA), ventromedial nucleus (VMN), and arcuate nucleus (ARC), all regions critical for kisspeptin regulation of gonadotropin secretion. In general, females had higher levels of ERα, in all regions examined, a sex difference that persisted until postnatal day (PND) 19 except in the ARC. Males had significantly more ERβ expression in the AVPV at birth, but this sex difference was lost and then re-emerged on PND 19, with females having more than males. VMN ERβ levels were higher in females until PND 19. Kiss1 was not detectable until PND 11 in the anterior hypothalamus, but expression levels were equivalent at birth in the ARC. By PND 2, ARC ERα and Kiss1 levels were abundant, sexually dimorphic (higher in females), and, respectively, showed a U- and a bell-shaped pattern with age. Sex differences in ARC Kiss1 expression provide evidence that Kiss1 may play a role in the sexual dimorphic organization of the neonatal brain. These detailed profiles of neonatal Kiss1 and ERs mRNA levels will help elucidate the relative roles each plays in the sex-specific, estrogen-dependent organization of gonadotropin signaling pathways.
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