Journal of Endocrinology

 The role of kisspeptin neurons in reproduction and metabolism

Kisspeptin is a neuropeptide with a critical role in the function of the hypothalamic–pituitary–gonadal (HPG) axis. Kisspeptin is produced by two major populations of neurons located in the hypothalamus, the rostral periventricular region of the third ventricle (RP3V) and arcuate nucleus (ARC). These neurons project to and activate gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons (acting via the kisspeptin receptor, Kiss1r) in the hypothalamus and stimulate the secretion of GnRH. Gonadal sex steroids stimulate kisspeptin neurons in the RP3V, but inhibit kisspeptin neurons in the ARC, which is the underlying mechanism for positive- and negative feedback respectively, and it is now commonly accepted that the ARC kisspeptin neurons act as the GnRH pulse generator. Due to kisspeptin’s profound effect on the HPG axis, a focus of recent research has been on afferent inputs to kisspeptin neurons and one specific area of interest has been energy balance, which is thought to facilitate effects such as suppressing fertility in those with under- or severe over-nutrition. Alternatively, evidence is building for a direct role for kisspeptin in regulating energy balance and metabolism. Kiss1r-knockout (KO) mice exhibit increased adiposity and reduced energy expenditure. Although the mechanisms underlying these observations are currently unknown, Kiss1r is expressed in adipose tissue and potentially brown adipose tissue (BAT) and Kiss1rKO mice exhibit reduced energy expenditure. Recent studies are now looking at the effects of kisspeptin signalling on behaviour, with clinical evidence emerging of kisspeptin affecting sexual behaviour, further investigation of potential neuronal pathways are warranted.