We examined the kinetically distinct characteristics of estradiol's effects upon pituitary luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) release in response to pulses of exogenous gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) in healthy postmenopausal individuals. The putative self-priming actions of GnRH on LH and FSH release were tested by intravenous injections of equal paired doses of GnRH (10 μg) before and after 1, 5, 10, and 30 d of pure estradiol-17β delivery via an intravaginal silastic ring. Self-priming actions of GnRH, as defined by heightened gonadotropin release in response to the second pulse of GnRH compared with the first, were completely absent in the hypoestrogenemic state. However, estradiol administration unmasked GnRH self-priming in a time-dependent fashion, with maximal expression after 5 and 10 d of steroid replacement, followed by attenuation by 30 d. Since estradiol's modulation of GnRH action was expressed differentially on LH and FSH release, we suggest that such facilitation of GnRH-stimulated pituitary LH and FSH release may provide an additional mechanism for dissociated secretion of gonadotropic hormones in health or disease.
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