Restricted food intake, either from lack of food sources or endogenous fasting, during reproductive periods is a widespread phenomenon across the animal kingdom. Considering previous studies show the canonical upstream regulator of reproduction in vertebrates, the hypothalamic Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (Gnrh), is inhibited in some fasting animals, we sought to understand the neuroendocrine control of reproduction in fasted states. Here, we explore the roles of the midbrain neuropeptide, Gnrh2, in inducing reproduction via its pituitary prevalence, gonadotropin synthesis, gametogenesis, and reproductive outputs in the zebrafish model undergoing different feeding regimes. We discovered a fasting-induced four-fold increase in length and abundance of Gnrh2 neuronal projections to the pituitary and in close proximity to gonadotropes, whereas the hypothalamic Gnrh3 neurons are reduced by six-fold in length. Subsequently, we analyzed the functional roles of Gnrh2 by comparing reproductive parameters of a Gnrh2-depleted model, gnrh2−/−, to wild-type zebrafish undergoing different feeding conditions. We found that Gnrh2 depletion in fasted states compromises spawning success, with associated decreases in gonadotropin production, oogenesis, fecundity, and male courting behavior. Gnrh2 neurons do not compensate in other circumstances by which Gnrh3 is depleted, such as in gnrh3−/− zebrafish, implying that Gnrh2 acts to induce reproduction specifically in fasted zebrafish.
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© 2021, The Author(s).