Puberty, a complex biologic process involving sexual development, accelerated linear growth, and adrenal maturation, is initiated when gonadotropin-releasing hormone begins to be secreted by the hypothalamus. We conducted studies in humans and mice to identify the genetic factors that determine the onset of puberty.
We used complementary genetic approaches in humans and in mice. A consanguineous family with members who lacked pubertal development (idiopathic hypogonadotropic hypogonadism) was examined for mutations in a candidate gene, GPR54, which encodes a G protein-coupled receptor. Functional differences between wild-type and mutant GPR54 were examined in vitro. In parallel, a Gpr54-deficient mouse model was created and phenotyped. Responsiveness to exogenous gonadotropin-releasing hormone was assessed in both the humans and the mice.
Affected patients in the index pedigree were homozygous for an L148S mutation in GPR54, and an unrelated proband with idiopathic hypogonadotropic hypogonadism was determined to have two separate mutations, R331X and X399R. The in vitro transfection of COS-7 cells with mutant constructs demonstrated a significantly decreased accumulation of inositol phosphate. The patient carrying the compound heterozygous mutations (R331X and X399R) had attenuated secretion of endogenous gonadotropin-releasing hormone and a left-shifted dose-response curve for gonadotropin-releasing hormone as compared with six patients who had idiopathic hypogonadotropic hypogonadism without GPR54 mutations. The Gpr54-deficient mice had isolated hypogonadotropic hypogonadism (small testes in male mice and a delay in vaginal opening and an absence of follicular maturation in female mice), but they showed responsiveness to both exogenous gonadotropins and gonadotropin-releasing hormone and had normal levels of gonadotropin-releasing hormone in the hypothalamus.
Mutations in GPR54, a G protein-coupled receptor gene, cause autosomal recessive idiopathic hypogonadotropic hypogonadism in humans and mice, suggesting that this receptor is essential for normal gonadotropin-releasing hormone physiology and for puberty.