The French National Centre for Scientific Research

Neuroendocrine control of annual reproductive rhythms

Project leaders : Béatrice Bothorel, Paul Klosen, François Gauer, Valérie Simonneaux

The alternation of seasons, which involves significant changes in light, temperature, food resources, pathogens, etc., requires highly complex adaptive processes to ensure the survival of individuals and species.

Change in the daily duration of light (photoperiod) during the year is the most relevant environmental factor for informing organisms about the seasons. Indeed, the seasonal change of the photoperiod is translated into an annual rhythm of the nocturnal production of melatonin, hormone of the pineal gland, which thus represents a true endocrine calendar.

Melatonin acts in particular on the pars tuberalis of the pituitary where it regulates the synthesis of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) so that the production of TSH is much more important in summer (or long photoperiod).

It is established that TSH acts on receptors located on tanycytes, glial cells bordering the basal part of the third ventricle, to control the hypothalamic metabolism of triiodothyronin (T3) by regulating the activity of deiodinases 2 and 3. In this context, the objectives of the team are:

  • to describe the mechanisms by which seasonal changes of T3 in the hypothalamus synchronize seasonal functions, notably reproduction but also metabolism and hibernation;
  • to study the long-term regulation, notably by the circannual clock and during the maternal programming, of the TSH / Dio2 & 3 / T3 channel;
  • to assess the impact of environmental disturbances (endocrine disruptors, climate change) on this central network of seasonal integration.


Valérie Simonneaux
(Senior researcher)
François Gauer
Paul Klosen
(Associate professor)
Hassan Ainani
(Ph.D. student)
Fernando Cazarez-Marquez
(Ph.D. student)
Vebjørn Melum
(Ph.D. student)
Marie-Azélie Moralia
(Ph.D. student)
Clarisse Quignon
(Ph.D. student)
Vincent-Joseph Poirel


  • El Allai Khalid (Université de Rabat, Maroc)
  • El Ouezzani Séloua (Université de Fes, Maroc)
  • Hazlerigg David & Wood Shona (Université de Tromso, Norvège)
  • Kalsbeek Andries (Université d’Amsterdam, Pays-Bas)
  • Mikkelsen Jens (Université de Copenhague, Danemark)

Selected publications

Quignon C, Beymer M, Gauthier K, Gauer F, Simonneaux V. Thyroid hormone receptors are required for the melatonin-dependent control of Rfrp gene expression in mice. FASEB J. 2020

Gautier C, Bothorel B, Ciocca D, Valour D, Gaudeau A, Dupré C, Lizzo G, Brasseur C, Riest-Fery I, Stephan JP, Nosjean O, Boutin JA, Guénin SP, Simonneaux V (2018) Gene expression profiling during hibernation in the European hamster. Sci Rep, 8(1):13167

Saenz de Miera C, Bothorel B, Jaegger C, Simonneaux V*, Hazlerigg D* (*co-last author) (2017). Maternal photoperiod programmes hypothalamic thyroid hormone action via the fetal pituitary gland. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 114(31):8408-8413.

Milesi S, Simonneaux V, Klosen P (2017). Downregulation of deiodinase 3 is the earliest event in both photoperiodic and photorefractory activation of the gonadotropic axis in seasonal hamsters. Sci Rep, 7(1):17739

Talbi R, Laran-Chich MP, Magoul R, El Ouezzani S, Simonneaux V (2016) Kisspeptin and RFRP-3 differentially regulate food intake and metabolic neuropeptides in the female desert jerboa. Sci Rep, 6:36057

Sáenz de Miera C, Monecke S, Bartzen-Sprauer J, Laran-Chich MP, Pévet P, Hazlerigg D, Simonneaux V (2014). A circannual clock drives expression of genes central for seasonal reproduction. Current Biology, 24(13):1500-1506

Klosen P., Sébert, ME, Laran-Chich MP, Rasri K, Simonneaux V. TSH restores a summer phenotype in photo-inhibited mammals (2013). The FASEB J 27(7):2677-2686


The French National Centre for Scientific Research