Joseph Starrett

Sue Moenter Lab

Areas of Interest

Sex steroids regulate numerous systems and can cause dramatic changes in physiology and morphology. I am interested in how the steroid estradiol acts upon central neurons to modulate circuit behavior. Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons control gonadal steroidogenesis and gametogenesis by secreting GnRH from the median eminence. GnRH secretion is regulated by estradiol, but GnRH neurons do not express the receptor necessary for sensing estradiol feedback, suggesting that estradiol acts upon upstream neurons. A better understanding of how estradiol feedback is transduced and transmitted to GnRH neurons via neural circuits could help us devise new therapies for infertility and new forms of birth control. My current project aims to determine if estradiol targets potassium channel function in kisspeptin neurons of the anteroventral-periventricular nucleus (AVPV). I am also studying synaptic transmission between AVPV kisspeptin neurons and GnRH neurons to determine if it is subject to estradiol modulation. Both are potential mechanisms by which estradiol induces the surge in GnRH secretion that is required for ovulation.