To determine the mechanism(s) of age-related changes in gonadotropin release from pituitary gonadotrophs in male rats, we measured the number of GnRH (gonadotropin-releasing hormone) receptor containing cells and expression of GnRH receptor mRNA per cell in the anterior pituitary. An in situ hybridization procedure was performed using young (six months) and old (24-25 months) Wistar rats. An image analysis system was employed for the autoradiographic analysis. The number of pituitary cells increased during aging (approximately 45%, p < 0.01). On the other hand, the number of GnRH receptor mRNA-containing cells decreased (approximately 25%, p < 0.05). The percentage of these cells in old rats decreased to less than a half of that in young animals (p < 0.01). GnRH receptor mRNA per cell in old rats was only 7% lower than in young (p < 0.01). These results suggest that loss of pituitary gonadotroph GnRH receptors and response is primarily due to the loss of gonadotrophs, and that the death mechanism(s) are responsible for decreased stimulation of Gn release during aging.
ASJC Scopus subject areas