Alcohol alters hypothalamic glial-neuronal communications involved in the neuroendocrine control of puberty: Invivo and invitro assessments.
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The onset of puberty is the result of the increased secretion of hypothalamic luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH). The pubertal process can be altered by substances that can affect the prepubertal secretion of this peptide. Alcohol is one such substance known to diminish LHRH secretion and delay the initiation of puberty. The increased secretion of LHRH that normally occurs at the time of puberty is due to a decrease of inhibitory tone that prevails prior to the onset of puberty, as well as an enhanced development of excitatory inputs to the LHRH secretory system. Additionally, it has become increasingly clear that glial-neuronal communications are important for pubertal development because they play an integral role in facilitating the pubertal rise in LHRH secretion. Thus, in recent years attempts have been made to identify specific glial-derived components that contribute to the development of coordinated communication networks between glia and LHRH cell bodies, as well as their nerve terminals. Transforming growth factor- and transforming growth factor-1 are two such glial substances that have received attention in this regard. This review summarizes the use of multiple neuroendocrine research techniques employed to assess these glial-neuronal communication pathways involved in regulating prepubertal LHRH secretion and the effects that alcohol can have on their respective functions.