Gonadotropin-releasing hormone and its receptor in normal and malignant cells

    1. L M Glode1
    1. 1University of Colorado Health Sciences, Department of Medicine, 4200 East Ninth Avenue, Denver, Colorado 80262, USA
    2. 2Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Denver, Colorado 80220, USA
    3. 3Colorado State University, Department of Physiology, Animal Reproduction and Biotechnology Laboratory, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523, USA
    1. (Requests for offprints should be addressed to L M Glode; Email: mike.glode{at}uchsc.edu)


    Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) is the hypothalamic factor that mediates reproductive competence. Intermittent GnRH secretion from the hypothalamus acts upon its receptor in the anterior pituitary to regulate the production and release of the gonadotropins, LH and FSH. LH and FSH then stimulate sex steroid hormone synthesis and gametogenesis in the gonads to ensure reproductive competence. The pituitary requires pulsatile stimulation by GnRH to synthesize and release the gonadotropins LH and FSH. Clinically, native GnRH is used in a pump delivery system to create an episodic delivery pattern to restore hormonal defects in patients with hypogonadotropic hypogonadism. Agonists of GnRH are delivered in a continuous mode to turn off reproductive function by inhibiting gonadotropin production, thus lowering sex steroid production, resulting in medical castration. They have been used in endocrine disorders such as precocious puberty, endometriosis and leiomyomata, but are also studied extensively in hormone-dependent malignancies. The detection of GnRH and its receptor in other tissues, including the breast, ovary, endometrium, placenta and prostate suggested that GnRH agonists and antagonists may also have direct actions at peripheral targets. This paper reviews the current data concerning differential control of GnRH and GnRH receptor expression and signaling in the hypothalamic–pituitary axis and extrapituitary tissues. Using these data as a backdrop, we then review the literature about the action of GnRH in cancer cells, the utility of GnRH analogs in various malignancies and then update the research in novel therapies targeted to the GnRH receptor in cancer cells to promote anti-proliferative effects and control of tumor burden.

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