60 YEARS OF NEUROENDOCRINOLOGY: MEMOIR: Harris' neuroendocrine revolution: of portal vessels and self-priming

    1. George Fink
    1. Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, University of Melbourne, Kenneth Myer Building, Genetics Lane, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia
    1. Correspondence should be addressed to G Fink; Email: george.fink{at}florey.edu.au; georgefink1{at}hotmail.com


    Geoffrey Harris, while still a medical student at Cambridge, was the first researcher (1937) to provide experimental proof for the then tentative view that the anterior pituitary gland was controlled by the CNS. The elegant studies carried out by Harris in the 1940s and early 1950s, alone and in collaboration with John Green and Dora Jacobsohn, established that this control was mediated by a neurohumoral mechanism that involved the transport by hypophysial portal vessel blood of chemical substances from the hypothalamus to the anterior pituitary gland. The neurohumoral control of anterior pituitary secretion was proved by the isolation and characterisation of the ‘chemical substances’ (mainly neuropeptides) and the finding that these substances were released into hypophysial portal blood in a manner consistent with their physiological functions. The new discipline of neuroendocrinology – the way that the brain controls endocrine glands and vice versa – revolutionised the treatment of endocrine disorders such as growth and pubertal abnormalities, infertility and hormone-dependent tumours, and it underpins our understanding of the sexual differentiation of the brain and key aspects of behaviour and mental disorder. Neuroendocrine principles are illustrated in this Thematic Review by way of Harris' major interest: hypothalamic–pituitary–gonadal control. Attention is focussed on the measurement of GnRH in hypophysial portal blood and the role played by the self-priming effect of GnRH in promoting the onset of puberty and enabling the oestrogen-induced surge or pulses of GnRH to trigger the ovulatory gonadotrophin surge in humans and other spontaneously ovulating mammals.

    • Received in final form 22 March 2015
    • Accepted 30 March 2015
    • Made available online as an Accepted Preprint 12 May 2015
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