The Protein That Switches on Puberty | Summary and Q&A

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June 25, 2020
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The Protein That Switches on Puberty

TL;DR

Researchers have discovered that the protein called kisspeptin plays a crucial role in initiating puberty by binding to receptors in the brain and triggering the release of hormones that signal the start of sexual maturation.

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Questions & Answers

Q: How did researchers first discover the role of kisspeptin in puberty?

Researchers studying adults with hypogonadotropic hypogonadism (HH) found that the family members with HH had a faulty receptor protein for kisspeptin. This discovery led to the understanding that kisspeptin is essential for puberty.

Q: What happens when kisspeptin binds to receptors in the brain?

When kisspeptin binds to receptors in the brain, it triggers the release of hormones from neurons. These hormones then signal the pituitary gland to release gonadotropins, which initiate the development of sex organs and the production of sex hormones.

Q: How do sex hormones affect the body during puberty?

Sex hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone, not only contribute to the development of reproductive organs but also play a role in other bodily changes associated with puberty, such as the growth of hair in new places.

Q: What is still unknown about the role of kisspeptin in puberty?

While researchers have discovered the importance of kisspeptin in puberty, they are still trying to understand how kisspeptin knows when to bind to receptors in the brain. One possibility is that kisspeptin responds to metabolic changes indicating the body's readiness for puberty.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Puberty is a complex biological process where the body undergoes significant changes from childhood to adulthood, and it is controlled by the protein kisspeptin.

  • Researchers found that individuals with a disorder called hypogonadotropic hypogonadism (HH) had a faulty receptor protein for kisspeptin, leading to a lack of sex hormone production and the absence of puberty.

  • Kisspeptin binds to receptors in the brain, causing the release of hormones that signal the pituitary gland to produce gonadotropins, which prompt the development of sex organs and the production of sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone.

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