Theme: Reproduction

Invited Speakers on the Theme of Reproduction

Symposium – Development and Maturation of the Reproductive Hypothalamus

Dr. Erik HRABOVSZKY, Institute of Experimental Medicine, Hungary

Kisspeptin in the Aging Human Brain 

Erik Hrabovszky received a medical degree at the University Medical School of Pécs in Hungary to join the neuroanatomical research laboratory of Zsolt Liposits. Long-lasting neuroendocrine traditions of this department date back to the chairmanship of János Szentágothai at the 1960s. Erik Hrabovszky began to study the central regulation of reproduction during his postdoctoral training in Sandra Petersen’s laboratory in Amherst (MA) with a focus on the possible role of estrogen receptor beta in neuroendocrine functions. Following his return to Hungary, he has been working as a research professor at the Institute of Experimental Medicine in Budapest. The Human Hypothalamus Research Unit ( of his Laboratory of Reproductive Neurobiology creates a unique infrastructural and intellectual background for anatomical and molecular studies of neuronal circuitries that regulate endocrine, metabolic and autonomic functions of the human in normal and pathological conditions. This laboratory combines anatomical, electrophysiological and molecular approaches to study i) the neuronal and hormonal control of pulsatile GnRH/LH secretion, ii) the mechanisms of the mid-cycle GnRH/LH surge which triggers ovulation in females, iii) the central effects of gonadal steroid hormones on neuroendocrine systems and on wider aspects of general neuronal functioning and iv) the molecular and cellular processes underlying reproductive senescence.

Dr. Alexander (Sasha) KAUFFMAN, University of California, USA

Regulation of Reproductive Neurons and Puberty in Mice

Dr. Alexander (Sasha) Kauffman is an Associate Professor in the Dept. of Reproductive Medicine at U.C. San Diego. He studies the regulation of the neuroendocrine reproductive axis in development and adulthood, as well as the hormonal and neural mechanisms underlying sex differences in puberty and reproductive physiology. Recently, he has also begun to examine the mechanisms by which stress inhibits the reproductive axis. Dr. Kauffman has demonstrated a productive and successful track record of reproductive neuroendocrinology research, with >65 peer-reviewed publications since 2001. In the past 5 years alone, he has published 35 articles, and during this 5 year period his publications have been citied >2,040 times (Google Scholar). Dr. Kauffman has expertise in neuroendocrinology, neuroscience, reproductive endocrinology, puberty, and development. He received his PhD in 2002 at U.C. Berkeley with Dr. Irving Zucker, an expert in circadian and hormonal regulation of development and reproduction. As a postdoctoral fellow (first in Dr. Emilie Rissman’s lab at the Univ. of Virginia and then in Dr. Robert Steiner’s lab at the Univ. of Washington), he received further training in reproductive neuroscience and molecular neuroendocrinology. Since 2006, he has studied the role of kisspeptin and related neuropeptides (e.g., neurokinin B, GnRH, RFRP-3) in controlling puberty and fertility. Dr. Kauffman has years of experience in rodent brain histology, reproductive endocrinology, and GnRH and kisspeptin biology, and is a recognized expert in histological analyses of neural mRNA and protein expression, including single- and double-label in situ hybridization. Dr. Kauffman recently won several Young Investigator research awards, including the 2012 FABBS Early Career Investigator Award. He is an Associate Editor for Neuroendocrinology, is on the Editorial Boards for Endocrinology and Journal of Neuroendocrinology, and has served as grant reviewer for NIH and NSF. He has authored multiple reviews on kisspeptin biology, and edited the field’s first kisspeptin textbook, which was downloaded (single chapters or in full) over 26,000 times in just the first year of publication in 2013. Dr. Kauffman was an invited speaker at the 2008, 2012, and 2017 World Conferences on Kisspeptin Signaling, as well as numerous other national and international meetings. While at U.C. San Diego, he has trained over 25 students and postdocs in his lab and participates regularly in several research-related high school science outreach programs.

Dr. Alejandro LOMNICZI, Oregon National Primate Research Center, USA

The Emerging Role of Chromatin Remodeling Factors in Female Pubertal Development

Alejandro Lomniczi received his PhD degree from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2001. He did his postdoctoral training in neuroendocrinology and reproductive biology at Dr. Sergio Ojeda’s Lab at the Division of Neuroscience, ONPRC-OHSU. Alejandro is a Research Assistant Professor at the Division of Neuroscience and an Affiliate Scientist in the Primate Genetics Program at ONPRC-OHSU. Recent studies from his laboratory have shown that the epigenetic control of puberty involves lifting of a transcriptional repressive tone exerted by the Polycomb group (PcG) of transcriptional silencers, with the simultaneous recruitment of a group of transcriptional activators from the Trithorax family. This dynamic Yin-Yang of repression vs. activation is imposed on a regulatory system (epitomized by the Kiss1 gene) directly involved in the stimulatory control of GnRH secretion ultimately controlling reproductive function. Today the Lomniczi lab is exploring the role of epigenetics in conveying nutritional status information to the cellular networks involved in the hypothalamic control of GnRH secretion using a combination of multiple techniques including RNA-seq, ChIP-seq, genome-wide DNA methylation assays and a battery of histological and physiological methods.

Dr. Naomi RANCE, University of Arizona, USA

Menopause and the Human Hypothalamus: From LH Pulses to Hot Flushes

Dr. Naomi Rance received a Ph.D. in physiology from the University of Maryland College of Medicine in the field of reproductive neuroendocrinology.  She then received an M.D. degree at the University of Maryland and completed a pathology residency and neuropathology fellowship at the Johns Hopkins Hospital.  She is currently a Professor of Pathology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine and divides her time between clinical neuropathology and research in neuroendocrinology.   Dr. Rance has a longstanding interest in the effects of menopause on the human hypothalamus and the role of neurokinin B in the regulation of reproduction.   Her laboratory also studies the effects of estrogen withdrawal, KNDy neurons and neurokinin 3 receptor signaling on thermoregulation, with the goal of understanding the etiology of hot flushes

Symposium – From Mice to Humans: Understanding Reproductive Disorders

Dr. Rebecca CAMPBELL, University of Otago, New Zealand

Cellular Mechanisms in PCOS

Rebecca Campbell is an Associate Professor at the University of Otago and a principal investigator in the Centre for Neuroendocrinology and Department of Physiology at the University of Otago. She also serves as the Associate Dean of Research within the School of Biomedical Sciences at Otago. She received her PhD from Oregon Health & Science University in 2002, joined the Centre for Neuroendocrinology as a Postdoctoral Fellow and then established her own independent research group in 2009. Her research focuses on defining and understanding the neuronal network regulating gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons, the final output neurons controlling fertility. Using a wide range of anatomical and functional neuroscience tools in transgenic mouse models, she has revealed morphological characteristics of the GnRH neurons and their afferent network relevant to their function in health and disease. Current work in a mouse model of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) has identified specific defects in the GnRH neuronal network that may underlie the development and pathology of this common infertility disorder.

Dr. Anna CARIBONI, University of Milan, Italy

Semaphorin Mutations in Kallmann’s Syndrome

I obtained a Master Degree in Pharmaceutical Biotechnology in 2001, at the University of Milan. In 2005, I obtained a PhD in Endocrinology at the University of Milan. Between 2006 and 2013 I have been working as post-doc in the University College London (UCL) laboratories of Professors John Parnavelas and Christiana Ruhrberg, and, from 2008, as part-time lecturer at the University of Milan.

In 2013, I have been awarded of a research grant by the Italian Telethon Foundation and started my lab as independent researcher, in Italy, at the University of Milan.

Since 2015, I am Associate Professor in Applied Biology at the University of Milan, in the Department of Pharmacological and Biomolecular Sciences, where I lead a research laboratory of Developmental Neurobiology.

The research focus of my lab is to study the cellular and molecular mechanisms that control GnRH-neuron development with the goal to identify genes implicated in genetic disorders such as Kallmann Syndrome (KS), Hypogonadotropic Hypogonadism (HH) and CHARGE syndrome, which all share reproductive failures due to defective development or functioning of GnRH neurons.

Specifically, I have been focusing my interest in the past few years on the role of semaphorins by discovering novel signaling pathways (Cariboni et al., 2008, 2011, 2015) and predicting novel candidate genes, implicated in HH/KS. For example, we found that the class3 semaphorin3A is essential for the migration of GnRH neurons from the nose to the hypothalamus and that semaphorin3E and its receptor PLexinD1 control the survival of GnRH neurons in the brain. Accordingly, mutations in these genes were identified by us and by other researchers in patients with HH/KS.

Dr. Nicolas DE ROUX, Paris Diderot University, France

Genetic Determinism of Pubertal Onset Disorders

Pr Nicolas de Roux, MD, PhD, is professor at the “Faculté de Médecine Paris Diderot” and head of the Molecular Genetics Laboratory in Endocrinology at Robert Debré hospital, Paris, France.

His main research interest is the genetics of isolated and syndromic defect of puberty. Pr de Roux was the first person to describe loss of function mutations of the gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) receptor in idiopathic hypogonadotropic hypogonadism. In 2003, he showed that loss of function of GPR54 is a new genetic cause of isolated gonadotropic deficiency, and this discovery has opened a new field of research in the neuroendocrine regulation of reproduction. More recently, his team described a new complex neuroendocrine syndrome due to a Haploinsufficiency of DMXL2. His research group is engaged in translational and basic research projects on the neuroendocrine regulation of pubertal onset.

At the peadiatric Hospital Robert Debré, Pr Nicolas de Roux is in charge of the molecular genetic of Peadiatric Endocrine Disorders.

In addition to his research work, he teaches courses to medical and graduate students in biochemistry and molecular endocrinology.

Dr. Ursula KAISER, Harvard Medical School, USA

Pubertal Development and Regulation in Humans: From Bedside to Bench

Dr. Ursula B. Kaiser received her medical degree and completed her clinical Residency in Internal Medicine and Fellowship in Endocrinology at University of Toronto Medical School in Canada. She then joined the Division of Genetics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School to pursue research in pituitary hormone regulation.  She is currently Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Chief, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Hypertension at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. 

Dr. Kaiser has an active research program focused on the genetic and molecular mechanisms underlying the neuroendocrine regulation of reproductive development and function, with a particular emphasis on the mechanisms regulating GnRH and gonadotropin production. Dr. Kaiser’s research has received continuous NIH support for more than twenty years.  She is the Principal Investigator of several NIH R01 grants, the Program Director of the NIH-funded Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH) program to train junior faculty in women’s health research, and the Principal Investigator of an NIH T32 training grant to train physicians and scientists in academic endocrinology. Dr. Kaiser is also an active clinician, focusing on neuroendocrinology and reproductive endocrinology. She has successfully mentored over 40 students, fellows and other trainees, many of whom have gone on to independent academic faculty positions, and she has more than 125 publications.

Dr. Kaiser is a member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians, and a Fellow of the American College of Physicians. Dr. Kaiser’s awards and honors include the Ernst Oppenheimer Award of the Endocrine Society and the A. Clifford Barger Excellence in Mentoring Award at Harvard Medical School. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology and former Vice President of the Endocrine Society.

Symposium – The Circuits of Sex: What are the Connections?

Dr. Charlotte CORNIL, University of Liege, Belgium

Does Membrane Estrogen Signaling Play a Role in Brain Sexual Differentiation?

Charlotte A. Cornil obtained her PhD at the University of Liège in 2004. After a post-doctoral stay at the Johns Hopkins University, she came back to Liège and became Research Associate of the Fonds pour la Rechercher Scientifique (F.R.S.-FNRS ; Belgian Science Foundation) at the GIGA Neurosciences (University of Liège) in 2009. She is now F.R.S.-FNRS Senior research associate and adjunct associate professor and directs the Research Group in Behavioral neuroendocrinology. Her research focuses on the analysis of the neuroendocrine and neurochemical mechanisms that mediate the activation and the organization of neural circuits underlying reproduction and behavior using birds and mice as animal models. She is the author of more than 70 original papers, reviews or book chapters.

Dr. Pelin CENGIZ, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA

Sex Differences in Neonatal Neuroprotective Mechanism

Dr. Pelin Cengiz, MD is a pediatric intensivist currently working at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, WI, USA.  She earned her medical degree from Marmara University School of Medicine in Istanbul, Turkey and completed residency at Louisiana State University Medical Center in Shreveport, Louisiana. She received her Pediatric Critical Care Fellowship training at Seattle Children’s Hospital, WA, USA. She is board certified in Pediatrics and Pediatric Critical Care Medicine. Her recent studies have demonstrated a female bias in neuroprotection following neonatal hypoxia ischemia (HI) in mice, and have clearly implicated estrogen receptor alpha (ERa) in conferring this sex-specific neuroprotective mechanism. She is recently working on determining the cellular and molecular mechanisms through which ERa may augment neuroprotection and enhance recovery from neonatal HI.

Dr. Paul MICEYVICH, University of California, USA

Mechanisms Through Which Estrogen and Progesterone Affect Cells Types in Different Systems to Affect Reproduction

In 1980, after completing a Ph.D. with Robert Elde, Paul Micevych did a postdoctoral fellowship at the kMayo Clinic with opiate pharmacologist, Tony Yaksh. He was appointed an assistant professor of Anatomy in 1983 at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Paul rose through the ranks and is now the Plumb Endowed Chair in Neurobiology, and Chair of the Department of Neurobiology.  At UCLA, he joined the Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology and began interacting with Charles “Tom” Sawyer, Roger Gorski and Arthur Arnold who introduced him to steroid hormone actions in the CNS.  Paul had been focused on understanding the role of neuropeptides and now became focused on how the sex steroids regulate neuropeptide expression and release within the context of reproduction.  A series of studies emerged that demonstrated sex differences of neuropeptide distribution, steroid-induced changes in expression and release and the effect of neuropeptides on sexual receptivity. These experiments lead to a curiosity about membrane-initiated steroid signaling and neurosteroids in regulating reproduction. Over the past two decades, Paul has been exploring signaling mechanisms underlying estrogen positive feedback of the LH surge and the hypothalamic control of sexual receptivity.  These experiments demonstrated that membrane-initiated estradiol signaling is critical for both sexual receptivity and the stimulation of progesterone synthesis in astrocytes necessary for ultimately activating GnRH neurons.   

Dr. Nirao SHAH, Stanford University, USA

Contextual Control of Sexually Dimorphic Social Behaviours

Dr. Nirao Shah is a Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and of Neurobiology at Stanford University.  After completing his medical training, Nirao was a graduate student at Caltech, where he identified molecular and cellular mechanisms that control differentiation of stem cells that give rise to the peripheral nervous system.  For his post-graduate fellowship at Columbia University, Nirao developed genetic approaches to identify neural pathways that regulate social behaviors.  In his own laboratory, his research has elaborated on such approaches to identify genes and neurons that control different aspects of a variety of social behaviors.  Nirao’s findings have provided insights into how our brains generate social interactions in health, and they are relevant to understanding mechanisms underlying behavioral manifestations of autism, dementia, mood disorders, and PTSD.  His work has been supported by funding from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, Ellison Medical Foundation, Mallinckrodt Jr. Foundation, McKnight Foundation for Neuroscience, NARSAD, NIH, including a Director’s Pioneer award, and Alfred Sloan Foundation.


Symposium – Reproductive Neuroendocrine Neurons Up Close: Cell Physiology and Sexual Behavior

Dr. John LEVINE, Wisconsin National Primate Research Ctr, USA


Dr. Andrea MESSINA, Lausanne University Hospital, Switzerland

The Right Gene at the Right Time: miRNA-based Networks in Puberty Onset and Fertility

Andrea Messina is an Italian researcher at the CHUV university hospital in Lausanne (Switzerland) currently involved in a translational research program to dissect the molecular mechanisms of human genetic diseases related to GnRH deficiency as the Congenital Hypogonadotropic Hypogonadism (CHH). He received, in 2005, is MS in Biotechnology from the University of Turin (Italy), working in the molecular biology of RNA interference. He then started to step in GnRH neuron biology during his Neuroscience PhD training at the University of Turin, where He focused his research on the molecular mechanisms guiding GnRH neuron migration from nose to brain, and in particular the contribution of Semaphorin signaling. After receiving his PhD in 2010, he moved in the north of France, in Lille, to join the laboratory of Dr Vincent Prevot as a Postdoc, to study the mechanisms involved in the development of the neuroendocrine brain and in particular the role of MicroRNAs. Thanks also to the development of a novel approach to study gene expression in rare populations of hypothalamic cells; He was able to identify GnRH neuron-specific miRNA-transcription factors networks involved in puberty onset and fertility.


Born in Italy (COMO), may 1978

March 2005:    MS, Biotechnologies    Pr I.Perroteau Lab, University of Turin, Italy
Topic: molecular biology
Project: design and in vitro production of siRNAs for isoform specific silencing of ErbB4

2005 – 2010     PhD, Neuroscience      Pr A. Fasolo Lab, University of Turin, Italy
Topic: developmental neuroscience.
Project: Dissection of the molecular mechanisms guiding GnRH neuron migration: role of semaphorins

2010-2014       Postdoctoral fellow      Dr V. Prevot Lab – INSERM U837, Lille France
Topic: Molecular neuroendocrinology
Project: Dissection of the molecular mechanisms guiding GnRH system development and plasticity

2015 – Present CHUV University Hospital – Unil, Lausanne, Suisse   Research manager
Topic: Molecular neuroendocrinology
Project: Translational research in GnRH deficiency-associated human genetic diseases

Dr. Kirk MYKYTYN, Ohio State University, USA

Ciliary GPCR Signaling: Lessons from Kisspeptin Receptor 1

Kirk Mykytyn is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Chemistry and Pharmacology at the Ohio State University. He earned his PhD in Human Genetics from the University of Utah in 1999 and performed his postdoctoral studies in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Iowa until 2003. His postdoctoral studies were conducted under Dr. Val Sheffield and resulted in the identification of two of the causative genes of the rare human genetic disorder Bardet-Biedl syndrome (BBS) and the development of the first mouse model of BBS. As an independent investigator, Dr. Mykytyn has focused on the functions of primary cilia; a nearly ubiquitous sensory and signaling organelle that has been linked to numerous human diseases, including BBS. One specific research effort has been to identify G protein-coupled receptors that selectively localize to primary cilia on central neurons in the mammalian brain and determine how cilia impact receptor signaling. One result from these efforts was the demonstration that ciliary localization of the Kisspeptin receptor on gonadotropin-releasing hormone neurons is necessary for proper signaling.

Dr. Sally RADOVICK, Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, USA

Control of GnRH Gene Expression

Dr. Radovick is a Professor and Chair of Pediatrics and Senior Associate Dean for Clinical and Translational Research at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. She received her medical degree from Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine. She then completed her residency in Pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University and her fellowship in Pediatric Endocrinology at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Her research focuses on the development and regulation of hypothalamic-pituitary function and she is a clinical specialist in growth and development, and pubertal disorders in children. Her laboratory has elucidated factors that control GnRH gene expression and the intracellular signaling pathways within the GnRH neuron. Dr. Radovick’s laboratory has demonstrated that the GnRH gene is the target of growth factor and nuclear hormone signaling pathways, which link nutrition and growth with pubertal development and reproduction. A large part of her research effort is now focused on the role of sex steroid mediated kisspeptin regulation of GnRH pulsatility. Another major area of her research has been to characterize the transcription factors important for normal pituitary development. Her initial studies provided the first description in man of the molecular genetic mechanism for combined pituitary hormone deficiency. Dr. Radovick has authored more than 100 scientific publications and is the editor of the book, “Clinical Management of Pediatric Endocrine Disorders,” Humana Press and the senior author of “Puberty in the Female and its Disorders” in Sperling’s textbook of Pediatric Endocrinology, and “Normal and Aberrant Growth” in Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. She served as the Associate Editor for Pediatric Endocrinology for the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. Dr. Radovick participates in teaching of undergraduates, medical students, residents, and endocrinology fellows. Her most notable teaching efforts have been in training individuals for scientific research, mentoring over 50 graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty.

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