It was earlier shown that expression of kinesin superfamily-associated protein 3 (KAP3), involved in the neuronal anterograde, microtubule-dependent transport of membrane organelles, increases in the hypothalamus of female rats during the juvenile phase of sexual development. KAP3 mRNA is abundant in the hypothalamus, suggesting that it might be expressed in broadly disseminated neuronal systems controlling neuroendocrine function. The present study identifies one of these systems and provides evidence for an involvement of KAP3 in the excitatory control of female puberty. In situ hybridization and immunohistofluorescence studies revealed that the KAP3 gene is expressed in glutamatergic neurons but not in GABAergic or GnRH neurons. Hypothalamic KAP3 mRNA levels increase during the juvenile period of female prepubertal development, remaining elevated throughout puberty. These changes appear to be, at least in part, estradiol dependent because ovariectomy decreases and estradiol increases KAP3 mRNA abundance. Lowering hypothalamic KAP3 protein levels via intraventricular administration of an antisense oligodeoxynucleotide resulted in reduced release of both glutamate and GnRH from the median eminence and delayed the onset of puberty. The median eminence content of vesicular glutamate transporter 2, a glutamate neuronselective synaptic protein, and synaptophysin, a synaptic vesicle marker, were also reduced, suggesting that the loss of KAP3 diminishes the anterograde transport of these proteins. Altogether, these results support the view that decreased KAP3 synthesis diminishes GnRH output and delays female sexual development by compromising hypothalamic release of glutamate.
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