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The brain controls reproduction in response to relevant external and internal cues. Central to this process in vertebrates is gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH1) produced in neurons of the hypothalamic-preoptic area (POA). GnRH1 released from the POA stimulates pituitary release of gonadotropins, which in males causes sperm production and concomitant steroid hormone release from the testes. Kisspeptin, a neuropeptide acting via the kisspeptin receptor (Kiss1r), increases GnRH1 release and is linked to development of the reproductive system in mammals and other vertebrates. In both fish and mammals, kiss1r mRNA levels increase in the brain around the time of puberty but the environmental and other stimuli regulating kisspeptin signaling to GnRH1 neurons remain unknown. To understand where kiss1r is expressed and how it is regulated in the brain of a cichlid fish, Astatotilapia burtoni, we measured expression of a kiss1r homolog mRNA by in situ hybridization and quantitative reverse transcription-PCR (qRT-PCR). We found kiss1r mRNA localized in the olfactory bulb, specific nuclei in the telencephalon, diencephalon, mesencephalon, and rhombencephalon, as well as in GnRH1 and GnRH3 neurons. Since males' sexual physiology and behavior depend on social status in A. burtoni, we also tested how status influenced kiss1r mRNA levels. We found higher kiss1r mRNA levels in whole brains of high status territorial males and lower levels in low status non-territorial males. Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that Kiss1r regulates many functions in the brain, making it a strong candidate for mediating differences in reproductive physiology between territorial and non-territorial phenotypes. © 2010 Elsevier Inc.

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General and Comparative Endocrinology

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