School of Medicine
University of California, San Diego
Reproduction is comprised of many complex behavioral and physiological processes. My research examines how the brain controls reproductive physiology and behavior, focusing on the role of kisspeptin in regulating reproduction. Kisspeptin, encoded by Kiss1, is a potent stimulator of the reproductive axis and humans and mice with mutations in Kiss1 or its receptor, Kiss1r, have severe deficits in puberty onset, gonadal sex steroid hormone production, and fertility. Thus, kisspeptin is required for reproduction. Despite much research, the mechanisms regulating Kiss1 neurons and the reproductive axis have yet to be fully characterized. My early postdoctoral research examined the regulation and function of hypothalamic Kiss1 neurons, demonstrating that progesterone acts directly on kisspeptin neurons to regulate female fertility. My research also showed that treatment with corticosterone, a stress hormone, impaired female fertility and this was likely the result of reduced hypothalamic Kiss1 expression and Kiss1 neuronal activation in corticosterone-treated females. Kiss1 neurons are located primarily within the hypothalamus but are also detected in other brain areas, such as the medial amygdala (MeA). However, virtually nothing is known about the regulation and function of Kiss1 neurons in the MeA, which is the focus of my ongoing and future research. The amygdala is implicated in regulating reproduction, as well numerous other behavioral and physiological events such as stress, anxiety, and social behavior. Understanding the regulation and function of Kiss1 neurons in the MeA may provide valuable insight regarding how the amygdala modulates reproductive hormones and how amygdala-dependent behaviors, such as stress, can alter reproduction.