Tyrosine Hydroxylase Neurons Regulate Growth Hormone Secretion via Short-Loop Negative Feedback

Frederick Wasinski, João A B Pedroso, Willian O Dos Santos, Isadora C Furigo, David Garcia-Galiano, Carol F Elias, Edward O List, John J Kopchick, Raphael E Szawka, Jose Donato

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28 Citations (Scopus)


Classical studies suggest that growth hormone (GH) secretion is controlled by negative-feedback loops mediated by GH-releasing hormone (GHRH)- or somatostatin-expressing neurons. Catecholamines are known to alter GH secretion and neurons expressing TH are located in several brain areas containing GH-responsive cells. However, whether TH-expressing neurons are required to regulate GH secretion via negative-feedback mechanisms is unknown. In the present study, we showed that between 50% and 90% of TH-expressing neurons in the periventricular, paraventricular, and arcuate hypothalamic nuclei and locus ceruleus of mice exhibited STAT5 phosphorylation (pSTAT5) after an acute GH injection. Ablation of GH receptor (GHR) from TH cells or in the entire brain markedly increased GH pulse secretion and body growth in both male and female mice. In contrast, GHR ablation in cells that express the dopamine transporter (DAT) or dopamine β-hydroxylase (DBH; marker of noradrenergic/adrenergic cells) did not affect body growth. Nevertheless, less than 50% of TH-expressing neurons in the hypothalamus were found to express DAT. Ablation of GHR in TH cells increased the hypothalamic expression of Ghrh mRNA, although very few GHRH neurons were found to coexpress TH- and GH-induced pSTAT5. In summary, TH neurons that do not express DAT or DBH are required for the autoregulation of GH secretion via a negative-feedback loop. Our findings revealed a critical and previously unidentified group of catecholaminergic interneurons that are apt to sense changes in GH levels and regulate the somatotropic axis in mice.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Textbooks indicate until now that the pulsatile pattern of growth hormone (GH) secretion is primarily controlled by GH-releasing hormone and somatostatin neurons. The regulation of GH secretion relies on the ability of these cells to sense changes in circulating GH levels to adjust pituitary GH secretion within a narrow physiological range. However, our study identifies a specific population of tyrosine hydroxylase-expressing neurons that is critical to autoregulate GH secretion via a negative-feedback loop. The lack of this mechanism in transgenic mice results in aberrant GH secretion and body growth. Since GH plays a key role in cell proliferation, body growth, and metabolism, our findings provide a major advance to understand how the brain regulates the somatotropic axis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4309-4322
Number of pages14
JournalThe Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2020 the authors.


  • catecholamines
  • dopamine
  • hypothalamus
  • neuroendocrinology
  • neuropeptides
  • somatotropic axis


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