EMBO J.: co-auth.: S.Croizier (group Thorens)


Hypothalamic neurons expressing gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), the “master molecule” regulating reproduction and fertility, migrate from their birthplace in the nose to their destination using a system of guidance cues, which include the semaphorins and their receptors, the neuropilins and plexins, among others. Here, we show that selectively deleting neuropilin-1 in new GnRH neurons enhances their survival and migration, resulting in excess neurons in the hypothalamus and in their unusual accumulation in the accessory olfactory bulb, as well as an acceleration of mature patterns of activity. In female mice, these alterations result in early prepubertal weight gain, premature attraction to male odors, and precocious puberty. Our findings suggest that rather than being influenced by peripheral energy state, GnRH neurons themselves, through neuropilin-semaphorin signaling, might engineer the timing of puberty by regulating peripheral adiposity and behavioral switches, thus acting as a bridge between the reproductive and metabolic axes.