Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) is typically secreted in a pulsatile manner. It is still unclear whether pulsatility depends on a GnRH pulse generator residing in the GnRH neurons or in other neurons. Since the cell bodies of GnRH neurons are located rostrally to the optic chiasm and the majority of GnRH terminals in the median eminence of the rat hypothalamus, we have compared GnRH secretion from individual preoptic, retrochiasmatic and median eminence explants using a static incubation system. GnRH is released from the three different types of explant in response to depolarization with veratridine or glutamate receptor stimulation using the agonist N-methyl-D-aspartate. Only the retrochiasmatic explants, however, show a characteristic pulsatile secretion of GnRH. The mean (±SD) interpulse interval is respectively 37 ± 5, 25 ± 4 and 12 ± 1 min when the fractions are collected at 7.5-, 5.0- and 2.5-min intervals. The immunocytochemically stained GnRH cell bodies are normally distributed in the preoptic explants (n = 212–420) while only 3 GnRH cell bodies can be visualized in 7 retrochiasmatic explants. Semi-quantitative RT-PCR shows that GnRH mRNA is present in the retrochiasmatic explant in a ratio of about 1:600 relative to the preoptic explant. We conclude that pulsatile GnRH secretion occurs in the virtual absence of GnRH cell bodies but does not occur from GnRH terminals in the isolated median eminence. These data further indicate that a mechanism of GnRH pulsatility is located in the retrochiasmatic hypothalamus and involves neurons different from the GnRH neurons.

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