Puberty, as the key developmental period when reproductive capacity is attained and sexual and somatic maturation completed, is under the control of a complex series of regulatory mechanisms that are sensitive to endogenous factors and environmental cues. The mechanisms of normal puberty onset and its potential deviations have been deeply scrutinized in humans and model species. However, characterization of the neuro-hormonal basis of puberty remains incomplete. In addition, evidence (and concern) is mounting that the timing of puberty is changing in several countries, with a trend for earlier puberty onset, especially in girls, whose underlying causes are ill defined. In the last decade, our laboratory has aimed at deciphering some of the basic neuroendocrine and molecular mechanisms responsible for the control of puberty onset, using rodents as pre-clinical models. In this presentation, a synoptic overview of the experimental work conducted by our group towards this aim will be presented, with special attention to our studies on the roles of the Kiss1 system in the control of the gonadotropic axis in general and pubertal timing in particular, as well as on the mechanisms for the metabolic regulation of puberty. Likewise, recent studies of our group on the putative roles of additional neuropeptide pathways (e.g., neurokinin B and nesfatin-1) and molecular mechanisms (e.g., mTOR and AMPK signalling) in the central regulation of puberty will be briefly described. Our basic studies will be discussed in the context of recent seminal findings regarding key regulatory mechanisms of human puberty and their potential contribution to disorders of pubertal timing and reproductive function. Ideally, such debate will highlight the relevance of translational research for widening our understanding of the basis of human physiology and disease; fields where Reproductive Endocrinology has provided paradigmatic examples in recent years.
30 Apr - 04 May 2011
European Society of Endocrinology