The ability of the brain to mount an appropriate behavioral and functional response to peripheral and environmental changes, as well as to initiate physiological processes that warrant the homeostasis of an organism, is paramount to the survival of a species. A major role in these regulatory processes is played by the bidirectional interaction between neurons and hormones at the level of the hypothalamus; however, much of the specific hypothalamic pathways that mediate the neuron-environment responses remain unknown. In this context, the Navarro Lab focuses on the study of the neuroendocrine mechanisms that govern reproduction and metabolism using functional, pharmacological and genetic tools in mouse models.
We have significantly contributed to the characterization of the hypothalamic neurons that regulate the pulsatile and surge like release of luteinizing hormone, i.e. Kiss1 and GnRH neurons, essential for the attainment of puberty onset and fertility. My lab is currently expanding these studies in order to identify upstream regulatory mechanisms of these neurons with special attention to a) their interaction with metabolic centers (e.g. AgRP and POMC neurons) that will help us to untangle how the brain regulates reproductive function depending on the existing energy resources to ensure reproductive success; and b) the role of these neurons in the integration of social behavior, stress and hormonal responses through the neurocircuitry connecting the amygdala and the hypothalamus.
This research is currently funded by several NIH grants, and with the significant contribution of the President’s Scholar Award, we aim to continue this pathway of understanding the mechanisms by which the brain interacts with the rest of the body and with the environment using cutting-edge neuroscience tools in our experimental models.